Bio-Terrorism Threat Requires 'All-Hazard' Planning

Michael J. Hopmeier, a leading expert on homeland security and emergency preparedness, told an international conference on bio-terrorism in South Korea that one key to efforts to combat it is an all-hazard preparedness plan that focuses on doctrinal as well as technology issues.

"Because infectious diseases and public health are national security issues, we need a greater effort to integrate science and society in a way that responds to all aspects of a disaster, or even a non-disaster which can have the same effect because of the fear it causes," Hopmeier told the group gathered in Busan City.

"For at least 5 years now, the growing global infectious disease threat has been viewed by the U.S. intelligence community as a fundamental concern," Hopmeier said. "Dramatic increases in drug-resistant microbes, the lag in development of new antibiotics, environmental degradation, the emergence of megacities with severe health care deficiencies, and the increasing ease and frequency of cross-border movements of people and goods have brought with them exponential possibilities for the spread of infectious diseases."

Hopmeier pointed out that in the United States, a multi-billion-dollar industry has grown that focuses on various aspects of bio-terrorism research, including prevention, detection, infrastructure, therapeutics and preparedness.

Regardless of a country's income level, however, he said that a bio-defense strategy must recognize the concept of "all-hazard" planning and prepare for the intentional, accidental and natural emergence of diseases and health risks. Hopmeier said, "This 'robust defense in depth' requires many inter-locking pieces, is scalable to needs, and is adaptable to the threat."

Hopmeier noted that all countries face key questions about bio-defense that require greater international attention and cooperation. "We need to work together to foster mutual understanding and standards on some of the most basic issues, such as 'What is preparedness?' 'What do we mean by quarantine?' 'How will we use medical surveillance?' and 'Who are the first responders in a given national context?'" he said.

Hopmeier is the president of Unconventional Concepts Inc., a Mary Esther, Florida-based engineering and scientific consulting firm that provides research, organization and technology integration services in chemical/biological incident response, combat-casualty care and medical support, crisis response and management and integrated federal/civilian disaster response.

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