SubWash: A practical mass-decon interface to the WashBus concept

The washbus is a patient transport system that saves seconds and lives. The basic idea is to decontaminate victims while they are being trasported to hospital, to avoid delay in admitting them to hospital (otherwise they require decontamination prior to hospital entry).

SubWash is a concept that addresses the question of how victims on, in, or around a subway system can be rushed to hospital in the event of an incident involving nuclear, biological, or chemical agents.

Consider, for example, a suspected or actual case of bird flu within a subway car. Upon alert, the subway goes immediately to a special decon station, let's say, for example, "Stop D". Decon stations are built at one or more abandoned subway stops, or at dual-use subway stops (stops that can be converted to SubWash stops). In the event of a dual-use stop, attendants at the SubWash stop are notified that a potentially contaminated train is on the way. The SubWash stop is rapidly evacuated and locked down, to prepare for the arrival of the train.

Subway stops are generally relatively secure from unwanted ingress, egress, or contamination. Usually there are stainless steel grilles that can block all entrances and exits. This means that when the stop is evacuated nobody can get in. When the train arrives with potentially contaminated individuals, none of them can get out of the SubWash stop, except as prescribed by the containment protocol.

Subway stops themselves are already generally very much like shower rooms in the sense that the walls are usually already covered in ceramic tiles, and all of the fixtures are usually waterproof. Usually the floors of of a non-slip material because of the high degree of foot traffic that normally carries rain and slush and snow into the subway stop, thus making it necessary to make the floors of material that has good traction when wet.

In one or more subway stops, special showers may be installed that are on standby (not used) unless there is an emergency of the type described above.

Alternatively, or additionally, subway stops are often connected to bus areas, and connect to bus lines, so that one or more washbuses may be parked at such a SubWash stop. In this way, victims released from an incoming train may exit into the bus loading area, since all the other exits would lock or be locked. Once safely loaded into the washbus or washbuses, the doors to the bus area may open up, allowing the bus to quickly take the victims to hospital and decontaminate them on the way.

If there is one person showing immediate symptoms that one person may be taken in a separate ambulance, while everyone else is moved to isolation, quarantine, or examined and released after decon, in order to prevent possible spread of droplets, particulate matter, or the like, from the contaminated area or other individual(s).

Subwash is part of PlanD.

--S. Mann, DECONference 2002