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Reopening Public Facilities after a Biological Attack: A Decision Making Framework
Owners and managers of high-value facilities should start planning now. A prompt, well-organized response will be needed to minimize the time a facility is out of commission. The committee recommends that the National Response Plan (specifically its Biological Incident Annex) or some other suitable federal document be expanded to provide more scientific and technical information on biological weapons, decontamination, sampling and surveying, epidemiology, and forensics. The document should describe how a team charged with collecting pertinent information for response to and recovery from a biological attack would operate in the context of a contamination event, which agencies would be responsible for which responsibilities, and who would be responsible for convening the members. The committee recognizes that the formation of such a team might take time and therefore outlines the following immediate, short-term, and long-term goals for building managers and the government to consider:
Immediate goal. Building managers and owners should convene Operations Working Groups that include all relevant stakeholders to devise a response and recovery plan in the event of a biological attack. Because the group would not have all the necessary scientific and technical expertise, the Operations Working Groups should identify the appropriate government agencies and officials to contact in the event of an attack.
Short-term goal. The federal government should identify a mechanism by which groups of experts would be assembled with the appropriate technical and scientific expertise to assist building owners and managers in the event of a biological attack. Those teams of experts would work with Operations Working Groups in the event of an attack to devise the best course of action for response and recovery. It might be modeled after the new central service recently announced by the United Kingdom’s minister of the environment, which will “provide advice and guidance to responsible authorities during their contingency planning,” among other functions (Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs News Release of January 25, 2005).
Long-term goal. The federal government should devise a mechanism by which it, and other relevant actors, would be kept abreast of developments and new technologies in surveillance, sampling, and decontamination and iteratively revise standards and policies for decontamination. That mechanism should ensure that updates would get to building managers and owners.
LBNLIED (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Indoor Environment Department). 2004. Advice for safeguarding buildings against chemical or biological attack. [Online] Available at: http://securebuildings.lbl.gov (accessed May 2, 2005).
NRC (National Research Council). 1989. Improving Risk Communication. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.