Federal Emergency Management
One of the major joint projects of the DHS and CDE is the BioWatch. Early detection and response to a bioterrorism event are crucial for saving lives and mitigating the consequences of an attack. Biowatch is one of the important tools used by public health agencies to warn citizens against the presence of biological agents. Homeland Security has improved the nation’s protection against bioterrorism by deploying an environmental sensor system to major cities across the nation.
This sensor system is operated as a joint program with the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the FBI. The program, which has been successfully operating in more than 30 of the nation’s urban centers since early 2003, helps to quickly detect trace amounts of airborne pathogens such as anthrax in time to take protective actions, such as distributing life-saving pharmaceuticals.
The system assists public health experts determine the presence and geographic extent of a biological agent release, allowing federal, state, and local officials to more quickly determine emergency response, medical care and consequence management needs. Since its beginning, the system has performed over a million tests with no false positives and only one true positive that was determined not be an act of terrorism, but came from an environmental source. BioWatch operates nationwide, focusing on major urban centers.
Routine air samples are collected on a daily basis or more frequently if necessary. To date, BioWatch has analyzed well over half a million samples. Specialized sampling devices developed by the Department have been placed at key locations nationwide that include many of the EPA Air Quality Monitoring Network sites in partnership with state, local and tribal environmental agencies. The specific site locations and other system details are closely held to avoid compromising the system.
BioWatch is a DHS initiative that funds, manages and provides policy oversight for this effort in partnership with federal, state and local agencies. Key partners are: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provides technical expertise through its Laboratory Response Network on the laboratory analysis methods and serves as the liaison for laboratory analyses with state health departments. Environmental Protection Agency, which leads the field deployment of the network, and serves as primary liaison to state and local environmental monitoring agencies.
Laboratories associated with the Department of Homeland Security, especially Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, which provide technical expertise in biological sampling systems, and training assistance to state and local agencies. In the event of a positive detection by the BioWatch system, DHS can as appropriate, dispatch several federal response assets to support the public health infrastructure of an impacted area.
These include: the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s pharmaceutical reserve of millions of doses of life-saving and life-sustaining medicines to be administered to populations exposed to natural or man-made biological or chemical threats; and the National Disaster Medical System, composed of teams of professional medical personnel to be deployed to support local public health officials in the event of a national emergency. The U. S.
Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology division serves as the primary research and development arm of the Department, utilizing the nation’s scientific and technological resources to provide federal, state and local officials with the technology and capabilities to protect the homeland. Conclusion: There was a time when the only disasters that shook a nation were natural disasters. But these days, disasters are both natural and man-made in nature. Man-made disasters such as those due to biohazards are highly unpredictable and offer a major challenge to disaster management experts.
Departments of science, defense and health need to work together to devise ways of minimizing damage and rehabilitating the affected people. As such the inter agency method of tacking disaster management that has been recently introduced in the United States proves to be more powerful and efficient. The Department of Homeland Security that has been entrusted with the security issues of the nation, works in co-ordination with its major branch FEMA that deals with all kinds of disasters and the CDC which deals with all kinds of diseases and biological threats.
This gives the disaster management plan a multi-faceted approach to managing disaster. Ultimately, the goal is to entrench disaster prevention and planning in every community across America, reduce the amount spent on disaster recovery, and save lives. Each new community that commits to disaster damage prevention does just that. Each new disaster-ready community is that much more prepared when disaster does strike.
DHS (Department of Homeland Security) (2006). http://www. dhs. gov/dhspublic/ FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) (2006). http://www.undmtp.org/english/Overview/overview.pdf