FINDINGS

  • A segment of the local population around Fort Detrick is not satisfied that the Army is doing everything it can to protect them from infection by pathogens being studied at USAMRIID.

  • Communication between USAMRIID and the Frederick community has not been adequate to address community concerns. The community has not been made aware of the details of the many safeguards already in place at USAMRIID, the requirements governing the operation of biocontainment facilities, and the Army’s ongoing commitment to improving safety and security.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • USAMRIID should expand its two-way communications with the public. Examples of possible communication efforts are:

    • Promptly disclosing laboratory incidents to the public,

    • Providing fact sheets about pathogens being studied, to include information on their natural reservoirs and how they are transmitted, and

    • Holding an open house prior to activation of the new USAMRIID facility or opening a visitors’ center.

  • USAMRIID should consider strategies that have been used by other containment laboratories (e.g, the laboratory in Winnipeg) to enhance community understanding and facilitate integration into the community. If possible, such communication strategies could be coordinated with the two other laboratories of the National Interagency Biodefense Campus.

  • USAMRIID should involve the Frederick community in ongoing activities related to improving safety at the laboratory. For example, it might be useful to include community members on the Institutional Biosafety Committee or other relevant committees.

  • USAMRIID should create a community advisory board, with a broad representation of community views. This board should meet regularly to learn about successes, problems, and improvements in policies and practices; encourage public suggestions for improvements; and help shape the laboratory’s public communications strategy and activities—including the development of guidelines for reporting incidents to the public. It would be helpful to create such an advisory board as soon as possible so that it can be engaged with the ongoing activities associated with the construction of the new facility.



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