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Top Experts Discuss Lessons Learned From Israeli Bioterror Exercise

Former Surgeon General of Israel, Dr. Yehuda Danon, offered one of the first briefings to a US audience on “Operation Orange Flame 4”— a recent biopreparedness exercise in Israel.

PRLog - Jun. 28, 2010 - WASHINGTON -- WASHINGTON —Former Surgeon General of Israel, Dr. Yehuda Danon, offered one of the first briefings to a US audience on “Operation Orange Flame 4”— a recent biopreparedness exercise conducted by the Israeli Defense and Health Ministries and the Defense Forces Home Front Command.  The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) hosted the forum together with the International Security and Biopolicy Institute (ISBI). Top experts joining as panelists were Barry Kellman, President of ISBI, and Dr. Eric Rose, Member of the National Biodefense Science Board. The roundtable addressed implications for biodefense in the United States and worldwide.  HSPI Deputy Director Daniel Kaniewski moderated the event.

The threat of non-state actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction underpinned most of the discussion. “For all of human history, there has been this relationship between concentrated industrial power and the ability to kill lots and lots of people. We are at a moment in history…where the capacity to do mass violence is now something that is devolving to any group of a half dozen people,” said Kellman.

This year’s Orange Flame—a national, biannual exercise in Israel—rehearsed such a nightmare scenario.  Two terrorists infected with an unknown agent arrived by plane in Tel Aviv. One went to a major hotel and was found dead 24-48 hours later. The other entered a soccer stadium with an aerosolized form of the virus. 20,000 people were exposed. As part of the drill, the Israelis identified the agent (smallpox), set up response centers to immunize the population, tested coordination of relevant response agencies, and even conducted a mock negotiation and purchase of smallpox anti-viral courses.

In his remarks on the exercise, Danon noted that Israel’s universal healthcare system—specifically its computerized record-keeping—is a crucial asset for biodefense, with all systems reporting to Israel’s Center for Disease Control. “Any unusual disease, any cluster of fever patients in emergency rooms, any unusual laboratory record, everything is directed online to the computer so the system can diagnose any unusual event.”

To build and maintain a culture of preparedness, Israel conducts a bioterror drill every two years in each of its hospitals. First responders and hospital management alike must pass an exam at the conclusion of the drill. “You need the clinical skill on the individual level,” Danon argued. “We hope they will not be the victims…but they also need to have the capability to do the initial diagnosis of what they’re seeing.”

Rose—one of the few Americans to witness Orange Flame 4—praised the openness and large scale of the Israeli exercise. “We in the US don’t do this at all on a systemic basis, and certainly not at the regional scale,” he observed, adding that the Israeli health care system is “remarkably well-coordinated.” Speaking from the point of view of a member of the US National Biodefense Science Board, Rose noted: “One of the highest-level items on our horizon is to create a drilling and simulation culture in the United States. That would entail an enormous amount of coordination, and hopefully use the Israeli model.”

As the old military adage goes, amateurs do strategy; experts do logistics. To that end, Danon remarked that the Israeli drills make a point to evaluate logistical capacity. As a scientist developing countermeasures, Rose acknowledged the primacy of logistics: “If we don’t master the logistics of mounting a response, having…all the great science in the world—especially if you have no quantities of these miracle agents—will be useless.”

Kellman warned that legal obstacles represent another barrier to progress in biodefense. “Legal problems permeate this entire domain,” he said. Whether licensing questions, liability questions, incentivization questions, or a host of other issues, “they are unresolved, unaddressed.”

For additional resources, visit: http://www.gwumc.edu/hspi/events/Bioterror.cfm.

About HSPI’s Policy & Research Forum Series:

HSPI's Policy & Research Forum Series spotlights cutting-edge security policy solutions and innovative research.  The Series is designed to provide thought leaders in the United States and abroad with a uniquely constructive venue in which to discuss current and future security issues and challenges.

About the International Security & Biopolicy Institute:

The International Security & Biopolicy Institute (ISBI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization headquartered in Washington, DC with staff and partners throughout the U.S. and Europe who work with a global perspective to minimize the social unrest, economic damage, and public health consequences posed by the inherently global threat of bioviolence.  The Institute seeks to develop and implement comprehensive policies and initiatives to prevent bioviolence threats and ensure appropriate response to them.  For additional information about ISBI, please visit www.biopolicy.org

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About the GW Homeland Security Policy Institute:

Founded in 2003, The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) is a nonpartisan “think and do” tank whose mission is to build bridges between theory and practice to advance homeland security through an interdisciplinary approach. By convening domestic and international policymakers and practitioners at all levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors, and academia, HSPI creates innovative strategies and solutions to current and future threats to the nation. For additional information about HSPI, please visit http://www.gwumc.edu/hspi/index.cfm

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Source:Homeland Security Policy Institute
Location:Washington - District of Columbia - United States
Industry:Defense, Government, Security
Tags:danon, kellman, rose, kaniewski, hspi, isbi, bioterrorism, wmd, biosecurity, orange flame, preparedness, biodefense
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