Posted in Biological Warfare, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Terrorism

Olympic Disaster Preparation

Bio-terrorism could threaten the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

As we look forward to the 2012 Olympic Games to be held this summer in London, officials are doing their due diligence to prepare for potential natural and manmade disasters. After all, planning and preparation is critical for an event that brings together millions of people (but bans all canines except service dogs) from all over the world. For security reasons, the International Olympic Committee will not disclose specific steps they are taking to ensure safety for the games. Nevertheless, some disaster management experts agree about the type of disasters that are most likely to strike after the torch is lit during the opening ceremonies in Olympic Stadium in Stratford on July 27.

Disaster preparation has played a crucial role in every game since the so-called Munich Massacre of 1972 when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and eventually killed by Palestinian terrorists. What’s more, the events of 9/11 made preparation all the more critical, tipping the scales in focused planning from natural to manmade disasters.

Two disaster planning and preparedness recently released a novel which explores a likely threat to the 2012 games. Entitled Prion, the work explores the potential of an attack on the London 2012 Olympics using biological agents. Although the thriller is fiction, it sheds light on one of the most likely types of threats to the 2012 games…bioterrorism. Authors, Dr. Italo Subbarao and Dr. Ed Hsu, U.S.-based experts in disaster planning preparedness and emergency medicine, point out the potential dangers of man-made biological agents slipping into the wrong hands.

The authors say their work was inspired, in part, by a 2011 report by the Bipartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center in the United States, which highlighted numerous areas for improvement and concluded that: “The nation does not yet have adequate bio-response capability to meet fundamental expectations during a large-scale biological event.”

“If the U.S. is so unprepared, can the UK—or any other country—honestly claim to be in any better position?” asks Dr. Subbarao.

I favor another fictional work about the case for including dog competitions at the 2012 Olympic Games. Might I suggestion a game of “Chase the Bacon” or “Scare away the Cat?”

Rest assured the WMD Report Card was written in 2011. Since that time, extensive time and attention has been devoted to beefing up security protocols in both the U.S. and the U.K. So, even as officials ready the nations, how should average United States’ citizens prepare for a bioterrorist attack? We say this often at RJWestmore Inc, where our goal is to SAVE LIVES THROUGH TRAINING: With bioterrorism as well as any other disaster, to BE SAFE, your best bet is to prepare:

  1. Assemble a kit. Your standard Emergency Supply Kit should include items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. Don’t forget to include your pets in disaster planning. Stash jerky treats and plenty of bones.
  2. Stay informed. The first evidence of an attack may be when you notice symptoms of the disease caused by exposure to an agent. Follow these guidelines during a biological threat:
  1. Make a plan.
    • Check with your doctor to ensure all required or suggested immunizations are up to date. (Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable to biological agents.)
    • Consider installing a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters in your furnace-return ducts. These filters remove particles in the 0.3 to 10 micron range and will filter out most of the biological agents that might enter your home or office building. If you do not have a central heating or cooling system, a stand-alone portable HEPA filter can be used.
    • Although you might consider investing in gas or surgical face masks, be aware that masks are only effective when worn at the exact time that the agent is released.
    • Familiarize yourself with your community’s warning systems and disaster plans. My pack prefers the Twilight Bark.
    • Public health officials may not immediately be able to provide information on what you should do. Watch TV, listen to the radio or check the Internet for official news and information including signs and symptoms of the disease, areas in danger, if medications or vaccinations are being distributed and where to seek medical attention if you become ill.
  1. BE SAFE. If you become aware of an unusual and suspicious substance:
    • Quickly get away.
    • Protect yourself. Cover your mouth and nose with layers of fabric that can filter the air but still allow breathing.
    • If you have been exposed to a biological agent, remove and bag your clothes and personal items. Follow official instructions for disposal of contaminated items.
    • Wash yourself with soap and water and put on clean clothes.
    • Use common sense, practice good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid spreading germs. My wife and I are trying to teach JR to practice good hygiene.
    • If you believe you have been exposed to a toxic agent, contact authorities and seek medical assistance. You may be advised to stay away from others or even quarantined.
    • In a declared biological emergency or developing epidemic, there may be reason to stay away from crowds where others may be infected.
    • Wait for instructions from doctors, veterinarians and other public health officials.
    • For more information about bio-terrorism, check out CDC.gov.

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. What’s more, the NEW RJWestmore Property Messaging System is included FREE for all RJWestmore Online Training System users. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information.

Posted in Biological Warfare, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Terrorism, Uncategorized

The Persistent Bioterrorism Threat

Are you prepared for the threat of bioterrorism?

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. I can cover three major metropolitan areas myself.
  • 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. This unfortunately is a common human trait. Spring into action after the worst has already occurred…
  • 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. I’m on a squirrel-chasing protein-based inhibitor myself but it’s not working out too well.

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

  • HVAC systems pose a severe risk by 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. My doghouse filtration system is Triple 9 HEPA Blue Shield Certified Contaminant Free.
  • 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. I have an old towel that’s my safe place. It’s covered in hair and old grease stains. Perfection!

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. On a side note, if your building receives any packages from kibble manufacturers or “Pig’s Ears R Us,” then please forward directly to me.
  • 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. Another benefit of not having hands!!
  • 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 RJ Westmore, 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.