The Role of a Regional Poison Center in Assessing and Managing Disaster Risk

Kathy L. Jacobitz, Regina E. Nailon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The United States constantly faces the threat of large-scale disasters caused by natural and human factors. Emergency medical services, other first responders, and emergency department professionals are responsible for triaging and caring for victims of mass casualty incidents that include biological, chemical, and radiological agents. These providers need immediate access to individuals with expertise in infectious disease, medical toxicology, and biological, chemical, and radiological exposure who are readily available or easily accessible in the event of an emergency. Poison centers play a key public health role during disasters, in part because of the specialized training staff - including medical toxicologists - receive in all facets of toxic exposure risk identification, assessment, and management, which are foundational areas critical to disaster health response. Integrating poison centers into the public health infrastructure and public health surveillance is crucial for disaster response. Through enhanced partnerships with public health agencies, poison centers have leveraged their readily accessible expertise and surveillance capabilities to expand their roles in disaster planning and response. This paper highlights the pivotal role the Nebraska Regional Poison Center plays in preparing for and responding to disasters and other public health emergencies at local, state, and regional levels. With an emphasis on its role in risk assessment and management in partnership with healthcare coalitions and public health departments, we recommend the Nebraska Regional Poison Center as a model to inform other poison centers across the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-204
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Security
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Countermeasures
  • Poison center response
  • Public health preparedness/response
  • Surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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