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Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

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FEMA Trained 93,500 Emergency Responders on WMD Readiness in 2011

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency's Center for Domestic Preparedness in 2011 helped prepare 93,500 state and jurisdictional emergency personnel in averting and managing the aftermath of a terrorist strike incorporating chemical , biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive substances, the Homeland Security Department said (see GSN, Sept. 12, 2011).

Separately, the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and the New York Police Department last year "sponsored a full-scale exercise for radiological and nuclear detection capabilities in the New York City region to assess the ability of [Securing the Cities program] partners to detect radiological and nuclear materials and deploy personnel, equipment and special units in response to threat-based intelligence," the department said in a press statement highlighting its 2011 accomplishments.

Slightly less than 11,000 New York City-area personnel to date have received preparation under the Securing the Cities effort for guarding against radiological and nuclear threats, and almost 6,000 radiation sensors have been fielded through the program, the department said.

In addition, "DNDO facilitated the delivery of radiological and nuclear detection training to more than 4,700 state and local officers and first responders," the press release states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Agriculture Department in fiscal 2011 accredited the DHS National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center laboratory "to begin research and diagnostics on pathogens to understand the scientific basis of the risks posed by biological threats and to attribute their use in bioterrorism events," the department said.

The department's Science and Technology Directorate and the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology last year issued a national strategy for a "comprehensive structure for the coordination, prioritization, establishment and implementation of [WMD] equipment standards by 2020," the statement adds.

The DHS Health Affairs Office "launched a partnership with the Maryland Transit Administration and the city of Baltimore to develop chemical defense operations and response procedures for subway mass transit, serving as a model for other jurisdictions across the country," according to the release.

"Through the Biowatch program, an environmental surveillance system that provides early detection of biological agents, OHA has collected over 200,000 samples in more than 30 cities nationwide to enhance protection and preparedness for high-consequence biological threats.

"OHA conducted the first-ever detailed testing on automated biodetection systems for national application. These state-of-the art detectors analyze samples and relay results to public health officials, significantly reducing the time needed to detect a biological attack and potentially saving thousands of lives," the department said (U.S. Homeland Security Department release, Dec. 22).

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