Preparation high, confidence low against bioterrorism

A survey has found that while 80 percent of attendees at a recent international biosecurity conference say their organizations — including first responder, medical, military and industrial outfits — have plans in place to counter bioterrorism, two-thirds doubt they would be safe in the event of a biological or chemical attack.From BioSecurity 2002:BioTerrorism Response Plans Doubted; Organizations Feel Vulnerable Despite Contingency Planning, According to Survey at International BioSecurity Summit

LAS VEGAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nov. 25, 2002–Although 80 percent of attendees polled at this year’s BioSecurity Summit say their organizations have crisis management plans in place, an alarming two-thirds (66 percent) say they are not confident their organizations would be safe in the event of a biological or chemical attack.

“This paradox illustrates organizations are making efforts to plan ahead and protect themselves, but have some real concerns about the adequacy of their crisis response plans,” said Doug Kane, a 27-year FBI veteran and leader of the Citigate Global Intelligence and Security (CGIS) Crisis Management Practice, which conducted a survey of 111 senior government officials, scientists, corporate executives, law enforcement and public health officials last week at the 2002 BioSecurity Summit in Las Vegas. The survey was conducted in cooperation with conference organizer Key3Media.

“The survey findings reinforce what we’ve seen working with organizations over the last six months,” said Kane. “Although many have crisis plans in place, most fail to regularly test and adapt those plans to meet the changing needs of their organizations. In addition, very few are adequately training employees about how to implement contingency plans once a crisis occurs.”

Notably, 50 percent of the survey respondents said they are relying on federal and state authorities to handle bioterrorism threats, while less than a third (30 percent) said their organizations have budgeted additional funds for crisis and contingency planning since September 11 of last year.

“It’s somewhat surprising that half of the attendees we polled — individuals who clearly have a stake in biosecurity issues — said they are relying on the government to manage bioterrorism threats,” said Paul Viollis, director of CGIS’ Security Services Practice, who is an expert in workplace security and counter terrorism. “While government authorities will play a significant role in responding to attacks, every organization, whether public or private, needs to take responsibility for addressing potential threats.”

On the bright side, 71 percent of respondents whose organizations have a crisis management plan in place ( 57 percent of total respondents) reported their plans include a dedicated response for bio- or chemical-terrorism. In this same group, 66 percent said their crisis management plans included vulnerability assessments of physical assets (office buildings, manufacturing facilities, distribution centers), while 66 percent reported their organizations conduct employee and vendor background screenings.

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