Guidance on the decontamination of individuals exposed to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials was provided by the then Scottish Executive in 2006. This guidance incorporated the Scottish CBRN & Hazmat Decontamination Algorithm (SCHDA), developed by Health Protection Scotland in conjunction with a multi-agency group. This algorithm was designed to help emergency responders in choosing the most appropriate decontamination option, when dealing with members of the public who have been actually or potentially exposed to hazardous materials.
One of the drivers behind development of the algorithm initially was the wish to prevent overprecautionary and unnecessary use of decontamination, as well as to ensure use of the best method when justified. Evidence suggests that the use of algorithms can result in improved learning, better implementation of guidance and enhanced responses to clinical situations. Various other algorithms related to decontamination work exist but none attempts to integrate all the relevant decision steps as incorporated in the SCHDA, particularly the decision whether or not to decontaminate.
The algorithm has been used by the Scottish Ambulance Service since the decontamination guidance was issued. However, use of the algorithm had not been formally evaluated before now. An evaluation study was therefore funded by the Scottish Government to assess if using the algorithm made a detectable difference to the decisions made on the decontamination of people involved in CBRN or Hazmat incidents, by emergency responder staff.