Monday, August 17, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, August 17, 2009

NYC officials drill for possible bioterror[ism] attack
"New York City officials are preparing themselves for a possible anthrax [bacteria] attack. The Department of Health conducted a drill Saturday to test the city's readiness to distribute antibiotics and vaccines to large numbers of New Yorkers at any given time. […] A school on the Lower East Side was used for the exercise. During a major public health emergency or outbreak of disease, sites like schools would be used as hubs for distributing antibiotics or vaccines. Saturday's drill asked that participants imagine the release of an airborne anthrax [bacteria], with antibiotics serving as a preventative measure; not a treatment. […] In the case of an outbreak, 200 Points of Dispensing - or PODs - would be used for administering the drugs. […] In the event of an actual attack, sites would be staffed with about 100 health professionals, volunteers and city workers using supplies delivered from city warehouses and labs. These packages would include medication, medical screening forms, and signs for the sites." (WPIX New York; 16Aug09; Charissa Che),0,1101994.story

Doctors say hospital surge capacity has worsened [nationwide]
"Despite the more than $8 billion that's been spent on hospital and public health preparedness between 2001 and 2008, the nation's hospital surge capacity remains inadequate for disasters like large-scale terrorist bombings, wrote two doctors in a commentary in the August 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). 'Disturbing signs show that [hospital] surge capacity has diminished … despite assurances from governmental and nongovernmental officials that hospitals can quickly ramp up in response to a mass casualty event,' wrote Dr. Kobi Peleg of the National Center for Trauma & Emergency Medicine Research, and Dr. Arthur Kellermann of the Department of Emergency Medicine, Emory School of Medicine. […] The authors of the JAMA commentary wrote, 'the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform conducted a point-in-time survey of level 1 trauma centers in seven US cities considered at high risk of terrorist attack. On the day of the survey, responding hospitals were so overcrowded with patients, it is unlikely that they could handle an incident of the scale of the Madrid train bombings, which produced 2,000 casualties in a matter of minutes.' […] Peleg and Kellermann suggest in their commentary that the US look to Israel, for example, for how to establish a robust mass casualty medical response capability. […] 'Israel's experience in preparedness and response shows that it is possible to maintain surge capacity for sudden mass casualty events without compromising a hospital's daily operations,' Peleg and Kellermann concluded. 'Certain practices, such as promptly transferring emergency admissions to inpatient units, improve efficiency and promote patient safety. Measures like these may work equally well in the United States.'"
(Homeland Security Insight and Analysis; 11Aug09; Anthony L. Kimery)

CSEPP [Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program] plans to remove 'safe zones' after depot is done [OR]
"The Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program [CSEPP] has put a lot of work into making sure schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other big buildings have a place people can go to if there was a chemical emergency. To do that, it created safe zones with air filtration systems that could hold people for up to 12 hours. Now CSEPP will have to take out those systems. With the Umatilla Chemical Depot in its last campaign - possibly finishing work in 2010 or 2011 - CSEPP and Umatilla County Emergency Management has to be ready to remove all the systems they've put in 39 buildings in Umatilla and Morrow counties. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is paying the estimated $2.73 million to remove all the systems. […] The main reason CSEPP will take out these systems is because schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other places can't afford the upkeep. 'Our maintenance budget is a little less than a half million dollars a year,' [Bill Howard, assistant emergency manager with Umatilla County] said. 'It's expensive and nobody wants to pay for that when they don't need it.' Howard wasn't sure what will happen to the filtration systems once they're removed. He said he's asked, with no response, whether other places where chemical weapons are being destroyed can use them. […] Clara Brownell Middle School in Umatilla may keep some of the system to provide air conditioning and heat to its gym. Otherwise all the other 39 buildings are having the systems removed. The Umatilla County Board of Commissioners decided after an hour-long discussion Wednesday to tackle the project. The county could have shuffled it off to FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers. Emergency Manager Jim Stearns urged the county to handle the removal." (East Oregonian; 13Aug09; Samantha

Ocean County plans emergency drill at Berkeley school [NJ]
"If you notice a commotion Aug. 22 at Central Regional Middle School on Pinewald-Keswick Road, do not panic. It is a planned drill by members of the Ocean County Decon Task Force. The Berkeley Emergency Response Team, in conjunction with the emergency medical service community and two area hospitals, will conduct the drill from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the middle school. 'The exercise will simulate the malicious release of hazardous materials - tear gas - in the school gymnasium during summer basketball camp. It will focus on various decontamination procedures including mass decon, ambulatory, nonambulatory and technical decon, as well as triage and transportation to both Community Medical Center (in Toms River) and Southern Ocean County Hospital (in Stafford),' said Michael King, public information officer for the Berkeley team. […] The Berkeley Emergency Response Team is the hazardous materials and CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive) response team covering all Ocean County towns through interlocal agreements. It comprises 35 volunteers who are trained to respond to incidents ranging from oil and chemical spills to potential terrorist incidents." (Asbury Park Press; 13Aug09; Bonnie Delaney)

Pakistan could face internal threat to nuclear weapons, experts warn
"A U.S. analyst has said that terrorists are not likely to acquire a ready-to-use nuclear bomb in Pakistan, but that does not rule out the potentially devastating intersection of extremism and strategic weapons in the South Asian nation. […] Former CIA analyst Lisa Curtis acknowledged the recent report that militants over the last two years had conducted three attacks on Pakistani facilities that house nuclear-weapon operations. However, she said 'there is little need to panic about this issue, at least in the short-term,' noting Pakistani nuclear-security efforts that have reportedly received $100 million in funding from the United States. […] 'A more plausible scenario is one in which extremists infiltrate the nuclear establishment slowly over time and gain access to nuclear materials or technology that could help them eventually build a nuclear device themselves, or even a dirty bomb,' [CIA analyst Lisa] Curtis said. 'The fact that elements of Pakistan's army and intelligence service retain links to extremists who they view as strategic assets in pursuing goals vis-à-vis Afghanistan and India opens the door for the unwelcome possibility of Pakistani officials with access to nuclear information developing sympathy for al-Qaeda goals,' she added. […] 'There is quite a large danger that people inside Pakistan's nuclear complex might feel tempted to share material or knowledge that could be used to build nuclear weapons with terrorists,' according to Oliver Meier of the Arms Control Association. […] Pakistan expert Jochen Hippler said […] that 'incompetence' and 'corruption' in Islamabad does indeed put Pakistan's existing nuclear stockpiles at risk. […] Hippler said that Western nations should consider shifting their attention from Afghanistan to Pakistan in order to support Islamabad's efforts to protect the country's nuclear materials." (Global Security Newswire; 17Aug09)

Bear' is ready and able to take on crime [discusses armored tactical rescue vehicle]
"If size is any indication, the newest tool in the Solano County [CA] Sheriff's Office's crime-fighting arsenal will no doubt prove a massive success. Standing about 12 feet tall, weighing an estimated 37,000 pounds and tricked out with all manner of technological gadgetry, the brawny Lenco Bear was unveiled Thursday at a press conference on the lawn of the Solano County Government Center. It is the department's second armored tactical rescue vehicle, though much larger and better outfitted than the original. […] The Bear - a burly, black-on-black tank-like vehicle - was funded by the Department of Homeland Security at a cost of about $400,000. It boasts a wealth of bulletproof glass and walls, night vision capabilities, an infrared camera that can rotate 360 degrees, a 'forward observation portal,' which is something like the turret of a tank and features a bulletproof shield just beyond the hatch, and extra-large tires that use a 'run flat' technology. […] 'It's designed to operate in chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear environments,' Elliott said. The vehicle, Stanton added, is useful in any situation and allows officers to get as close as possible to their target while still remaining safe. Not only will it aid in apprehending suspects, he said, but it will also be instrumental in rescuing victims. […] The vehicle will be available for use by any agency that needs it, he assured, within the county and without." (Conta Costa Times; 14Aug09; Kimberly K. Fu)

WMD Training for Sioux City Firefighters [IA]
"Firefighters trained Friday on how to respond if a weapon of mass destruction ever hits Siouxland. Sioux City has one of Iowa's seven weapon of mass destruction response units. The Sioux City unit covers 12 counties in Iowa. The training was put on by a national guard unit from des moines at Sioux City's fire station number three. Thursday's WMD training focused on surveying the scene, proper sampling technique, and maintaining evidence. The firefighters wore HAZMAT suits for part of the training. The group tries to train at least once per year with the Iowa National Guard's 71st Civil Support Team." (KTPH Fox 44; 13Aug09)

Self-storage facilities eye sensors to detect terrorist threats [IL]
"A 2004 FBI memo to self-storage facility owners warned, 'Terrorist plots that involve IED's [improvised explosive devices] have utilized rental storage facilities to house parts of the bomb or other supplies until the plotters have the time to assemble the weapon or prepare the attack.' Because of this threat, LifeStorage, a self-storage facility based in Chicago, has more than doubled the money it spends on counterterrorism technology. Potential for covert, illegal activity is especially high at facilities capable of housing cars or trucks and those with 24/7 drive-up access where surveillance is minimal and entry unrestricted, said a company statement. The company began working with Defentect, a defense technology firm, to install sensors that detect terrorist weapons such as radiological devices used to make so-called dirty bombs. […] LifeStorage has spent $135,000 to install Defentect's chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threat-detection sensors. […] Defentect is currently equipping LifeStorage facilities with its DM3 software, and gammatect sensors that 'report threat level gamma radiation… and provide isotope identification,' according to the Defentect brochure. The DM3 software system allows for effective 'management, monitoring, and messaging,' and it 'enables customers to add radiation detection and other sensors to their security systems.'" (National Defense Magazine; Sep09; Tessa Gellerson)

Lack of funding leads to federal building security failures
"In a covert intrusion test, General Accountability Office investigators successfully penetrated 10 government facilities revealing widespread disorganization, and fundamental security failures within the Federal Protective Service (FPS). […] The GAO investigators were able to bring bomb components into all 10 facilities undetected, construct the improvised explosive devices in restrooms, and then carry them around the buildings in briefcases. The buildings were all ranked level 4 facilities on a scale from 1 to 5, with level 5 facilities being the most secure. […] 'FPS is essentially an agency in crisis … A lack of resources has hampered them in not only having enough staff but in having enough ability to improve the technology component of risk mitigation as well,' the GAO's Mark Goldstein told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. […] Gary Schenkel, director of FPS, cited 'budget constraints' for the security failures, adding that 'many programmatic elements such as training and equipment purchases had to be rescheduled.'" (National Defense Magazine; Sep09; Tessa Gellerson)

IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] tracks illicit possession of nuclear materials
"The International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] last year received reports of 15 cases of illicit nuclear material possession or related incidents and 16 cases involving the theft or loss of sensitive substances, the organization announced last week in its annual report for 2008. […] As of the end of last year, the database had recorded 1,562 nuclear trafficking incidents dating back to 1993, ranging from illicit disposal efforts to discoveries of 'orphan' nuclear material with an unknown provenance. […] 'The continued reporting by states of incidents - whether criminal, unauthorized or inadvertent in nature - points to the need for further improvement of measures to control and secure nuclear and other radioactive material, wherever used or located, and of capabilities to detect illicit nuclear trafficking and other unauthorized acts involving such material,' the report states. The agency warned again of the danger of diversion of nuclear materials. 'Malicious acts involving nuclear or other radioactive material are a continuing worldwide threat,' the report states. 'Existing data indicate circumstances in which nuclear and other radioactive material is uncontrolled or is in unauthorized circulation.
Related facilities and transports are at risk from acts of sabotage.' […] The agency carried out 21 advisory missions last year that generated sets of proposals for states to improve the security of nuclear materials and related infrastructure, establish nuclear regulatory systems, counter nuclear smuggling and prepare for nuclear or radiological attacks, the report's authors wrote." (Global Security Newswire; 17Aug09)

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