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Dispensing Medical Countermeasures for Public Health Emergencies: Workshop Summary
the school buses that ended up underwater in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Those school buses, if harnessed early, could have been used to evacuate thousands of New Orleans citizens out of harm’s way. Instead, this valuable resource was rendered useless. We must ensure that the same does not happen to the resources in our stockpile, said Parker.
When a strategist considers the potential threats against this nation in the arena of terrorism, two scenarios stand out as “strategic” in their impact: the first is a nuclear attack and the second is a bioterrorist anthrax attack on a large metropolitan area, noted Parker. The effects on this society in terms of loss of life and productivity of life, economic and psychological impact, and sustainability of a way of life would be unparalleled and unprecedented in American history. The efforts of federal, state, and local government have been considerable in preparing for the response to a widespread anthrax incident. It has been the focus of countless hours and untold industry, yet as evidence by the presentations made during the workshop there are a number of efforts underway to improve a communities efforts. However, the nation is not comprehensively prepared to mount the greatest possible defense. One other fact has emerged from the attempt to address this great charge, continued Parker. In a country where the government is a concept of, by, and for the people, its defense, resiliency, and best chance at sustainability depends on the willingness and ability of the people to work with government through a “shared responsibility,” and it is imperative that the need for shared responsibility be understood.
Parker said that throughout the workshop he and other speakers, including Minson, Shortal, and Robert Holman from Dallas County Health and Human Services, had discussed this new concept of “Civil Defense for the 21st Century,” and suggested the need for partnership between the government and the other key stakeholders—including corporate entities, nonprofits, other organizations, and individuals—is strongly seen in countermeasures response. If we are to save the greatest number of lives, then we must act to ensure that a complementary array of response capabilities are robust, vigorous, and ready, concluded Parker. The work of the IOM Forum, its members, and the workshop panel has been to move forward that principle.