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Archive for the ‘Anthrax’ Category

The Persistent Bioterrorism Threat

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Security experts such as Graham Alison, who is the funding dean of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and an expert on nuclear proliferation, point to the comparative ease of acquiring bioterrorism materials as opposed to the technology required to actually make a nuclear device. This ease of accumulation makes it considerably more likely that nations will respond to bioterror-detonations or spread before a nuclear attack. And bioterror attacks have already occurred in this country, and continue to happen, with a recent Washington D.C. anthrax attack making the news.

A key tactic for preventing the widespread spread of bacterial weaponized agents is the production of vaccines. However, creating a new vaccine faces many hurdles. There are some successes and shortcomings for efforts to build and stockpile vaccines:

  • Enough smallpox vaccine exists to inoculate every U.S. citizen.
    There is enough anthrax vaccine to cover three major metropolitan areas.
  • The organization of Health and Human Services points to a severe lack of urgency with the United States Government’s efforts to stockpile vaccines and prepare for potential calamities.
  • According to the New York Times, the cost for the pharmaceutical industry to produce a new vaccine averages about $1 billion. Vaccines are not typically money-makers for these companies, which often focus on drugs that require habitual usage—such as cholesterol treatment medications.

Another key component of managing the risk of bioterror is to protect buildings and personnel:

  • HVAC systems pose a severe risk to their very function. They circulate and recycle air throughout buildings, making them the perfect vehicle for contamination.
  • Companies can improve HVAC filtration, protect outdoor air intakes, and secure building blueprints that would show HVAC details.
  • Buildings with tenants whose companies utilize industrial chemicals should ensure physical access to these chemicals is severely restricted.
  • Restricting access of unannounced visitors and couriers is vital to providing some separation between the public and tenants.
  • Establish a “safe haven” where employees can congregate after an attack is eminent.

How to prepare for the threat of bioterrorism

During the anthrax attacks of 2001, many postal and mailroom staff members were not able to recognize the risks of suspicious packages, even after opening the contents and discovering powders.

Handling suspicious packages requires several key steps:

  • Identify unopened packages that might deserve extra scrutiny. Look for signs such as handwritten or badly written address information, excessive postage, markings such as “Confidential,” mismatched postmark/return address, or misspellings.
  • A powdery substance, oily stains, or excessive packaging can be signs of potential bioterror substances in the package.
  • Don’t open questionable packages! This advice seems rudimentary. But you should instruct tenants and mailroom staff that no package is worth injury.
  • Handle the package gently, without shaking the contents.
  • Do not smell the package.
  • Keep the unopened package in a secure area that has adequate ventilation.
  • If you come in contact with a suspicious package or substance, immediately wash your hands and possibly discard clothing if possible.
  • Avoid touching your face when you are handling the package.
  • After calling law enforcement, record as many details as possible about the package. Did you notice a new delivery driver, or an unusual shipping carrier? Any details can give law enforcement time to develop evidence.

In the event your building or staff members are involved in an attack, you should take certain steps to limit damage. Designated employees should call the local FBI office to report the incident and coordinate investigation efforts. Affected individuals should be quickly quarantined while they wait for medical personnel. It is important to provide first responders with as many details as possible so they can arrange HAZMAT or other protections.

The threat for bioterrorism is real. Through proper planning, and open communication with agencies such as the CDC and FBI, you can do your part to identify and prevent attacks from occurring.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Using New Technology to Gauge Threats

Monday, April 18th, 2011
Seal of the US Dept of Homeland Security and Twitter

The Dept of homeland Security is using social media to alert the public about disasters.

Very shortly, news network viewers will no longer find out about updates via color-coded threat levels from the Department of Homeland Security. The current threat-level chart will be replaced by a two-level threat system known as the National Terrorism Advisory System. The first threat level will be coined “elevated,” and would warn about a credible threat, but not list possible targets.

A distinct difference to the previous system is that the two-level system will provide a start and end date for the threat. The second level will be “imminent” when law enforcement officers working with DHS determine a credible threat will very likely be attempted against certain targets. This level of alert would continue for not more than seven days, but could be extended. DHS will also incorporate social media alerts into the two-level system, recognizing the reach and the importance of such networks in the fast sharing of information.

First put into use in March 2002, the current system (officially known as the Homeland Security Advisory System), was established in response to the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks. The system initially came under frequent criticisms, with many individuals claiming the threat level was often raised for political motives to incite citizen unrest. Others claimed the threat level did not move sufficiently to recognize actual threats, and was often held at an elevated status level.

According to DHS, the risk of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil remains, and citizens are encouraged to remain vigilant and report suspicious behavior. Law enforcement is continually training for possible attacks, even participating in testing exercises to measure readiness.

This type of readiness was evident in the thwarted New York’s Time Square bombing attempt in 2009, where a quick-thinking street vendor alerted authorities to a smoking van. The terror alert system reminds citizens about the threat of terrorism and encourages common sense as well as a broader sense of civic responsibility.

Government officials announced that terror alerts and information about threats will be distributed via two primary social networks when deemed appropriate, Twitter and Facebook. The department’s Twitter alerts page is @ntasalerts. The Department of Homeland Security’s Facebook page can be found at Facebook.com/HomelandSecurity. In some cases, distribution of specifics regarding an alert could jeopardize ongoing investigations. In such cases, information about terror threats might not reach the public until after the alleged terrorists are captured and the threat has been mitigated.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

 

Guarding Against Anthrax

Monday, January 24th, 2011
Biohazard Label

The fatality rate for those exposed to Anthrax is over 99%, if left untreated.

Soon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, letters laced with Anthrax began appearing in the U.S. mail. Five Americans were killed and 17 were sickened in what became the worst biological attacks in United States history.

Although an attack on the United States using weaponized Anthrax is considered a very low probability now, it is still important to prepare for such an event. After all, the fatality rate for those exposed to Anthrax is over 99%, if left untreated. Terrorists consider it a preferred biological warfare agent because it is easy to disperse, travels quickly and is lethal.

Anthrax can be used for biological warfare, because this infectious disease has spore-forming bacteria that can be spread easily using missiles, artillery, aerial bombs and other methods. Depending on the wind, a disease such as Anthrax could spread hundreds of miles in a few short hours.

Fortunately, there is good news. There is an oral medication that has been proven effective in treating Anthrax, if administered within 48 hours of exposure. Also, in December 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order stating, essentially, that in the event of an Anthrax outbreak, the postal service had the capacity to deliver said antidote, along with instructions for administering it. One hundred and eighty days after the order was signed, the Postal Plan was enacted, a program which uses the nation’s letter carriers to deliver medical countermeasures.

However, there are several things that small businesses and individuals can do to prepare for such an attack.

1. Understand Exposure:

  • Bacillus Anthracis (Anthrax) can occur in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation, and gastrointestinal.
  • Anthrax can lay in soil for years, and spread by handling animal products and then failing to immediately wash hands
  • Communicability is not a concern; Anthrax does not spread easily from person to person

2. Recognize the symptoms:

  • Over 95% of Anthrax cases are from Bacillus Anthracis that has entered the skin. The first sign of a cutaneous Anthrax infection is a small bump, resembling an insect bite, which grows over the course of a few days, developing a black center.
  • Those infected by inhaling Anthrax initially have symptoms that may resemble a common cold. After several days, the symptoms may progress to severe breathing problems and shock. Inhalation Anthrax is often fatal.
  • The intestinal disease form of Anthrax may follow the consumption of contaminated meat and is characterized by an acute inflammation of the intestinal tract. Initial signs of nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and fever are followed by abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea. Intestinal Anthrax results in death in 25 percent to 60 percent of cases.

3. Know how to prevent possible contact with Anthrax:

4. Use common sense. If you receive a package in the mail with a written threat, or a visible powdery substance in or outside of it:

  • Wash hands immediately after handling
  • Do NOT open it
  • Call 911
  • Leave the package where it is
  • Move everyone away from the package, but keep those who may have come in contact with it in a separate location, until authorities arrive.

John Koerner, chief of the U.S. Health and Human Service’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Branch, said the first piece in preparing for such an emergency is to ensure that planning is evidence-based by using existing experience and expertise to inform plans and processes.

Recognizing the symptoms

Knowing the different ways Anthrax can be introduced into your system, as well as the symptoms and treatments for each particular type of infection, is a good way to prepare against this disease. Being able to identify the symptoms early on can make the difference between life and death.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.