Elements of effective bioterrorism preparedness : planning primer for local public health agencies
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Elements of effective bioterrorism preparedness : planning primer for local public health agencies

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      Although the probability of a bioterrorist attack in most parts of the United States is thought to be low, bioterrorism has become one of the many complex public health threats facing the nation’s public health system. While public health responsibility for responding to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies differs nationwide, almost all states rely to some extent upon local public health agencies to identify and respond to bioterrorism, and to protect the health of their communities. If a bioterrorist event occurs in this country, it will unfold at the local level, and local public health officials will be accountable for the appropriate public health response in their communities.

      As part of their planning activities, many local health officials have sought to determine the crucial elements of bioterrorism preparedness. Elements of Effective Bioterrorism Preparedness was developed to assist local public health officials and their partners in identifying their public health and safety roles when responding to bioterrorism. Although this document focuses on local public health agencies, it is important to note that the public health response to a bioterrorist event is part of a larger response that will involve criminal investigation and other emergency management authorities at the local, state, and federal levels. This publication was created to help local public health agencies begin to coordinate their piece of this larger response, and jointly plan response activities with partners in neighboring local and state public health systems.

      This Primer purposely avoids developing specific instructions or lists of how to prepare for a bioterrorist event and focuses instead on general areas of preparedness at the local level. Due to the diversity of local public health agencies across the country, and the historical and political contingencies that influence emergency response at the local level, a “cook book” or “cookie cutter” approach will not adequately address the needs of local public health agencies. Instead, this document was developed to identify the crucial elements local public health agencies need to consider to develop their local plans. In this way, local jurisdictions can tailor the elements described in this document to fit their own circumstances while adhering to central elements of public health preparedness at the local level. In addition, jurisdictions should build upon response plans currently in place and modify these plans to include biological events, for example pandemic flu preparedness plans. Building upon what already exists is an efficient way to prepare for bioterrorism, and minimizes creating several different plans that could create confusion for emergency responders.

      Currently there are numerous local, state, and federal activities relating to bioterrorism preparedness and the emergency response role of local public health agencies. For example, Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Program is coordinating several CDC efforts to improve local and state bioterrorism preparedness and response capacity. This document has been designed to be used in conjunction with these national activities, including the CDC Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Program and overall public health infrastructure improvement activities sponsored by the CDC National Public Health Performance Standards Program, the CDC's Health Alert Network Program, and the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Emergency Preparedness Metropolitan Medical Response System. The document also features local, state, and federal resources, such as the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile, so that readers may identify sources of assistance and expertise outside of their jurisdiction.

      This Primer will begin to answer the basic question asked by many local public health officials – "how should I begin to pre- pare for bioterrorism?" – and will point the reader to additional sources of information and more specific planning guidance for use in their jurisdictions.

      Funding for the preparation of this document was provided by a cooperative agreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (#U50/CCU302718-12, "Program to Strengthen Public Health Systems by Effectively Translating Essential Public Health Services into Practice.")

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