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Dr. Jayne Morrow
White Powder

Case Study Case Study Thumbnail View

Lori Miller, PE
Decontamination of Diseased Animal Carcasses


I'm Janie Morrow.  I'm at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  I'm in the biochemical science division.  And at NIST we make a number of standards products, and it's with privilege that I get to talk about the recent work that we had a very talented team work with us to develop a documentary standard that's guidance for initial response to suspected bio-threat incidents.  And through that standards development process we worked with a number of stakeholders in the community including a diverse group of first responders and the public health laboratorians that they support.  We've worked with law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels, and both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worked with us directly to generate a useful standard.

Standardized procedures for response to suspected bio-threats are still a critical need to the country.  There have been upwards of more than 30,000 suspected bio-threat incidents, or as they're known in the community, suspicious powder incidents, since 2001.  So it is still an ever present challenge for the response community in dealing with these suspicious letters or powders.  My educational training is not in operational response, so in order for us to generate a useful standard I reached out across the response community to try and understand their current best practices and procedures for responding to these suspected bio-threat incidents.  It was during these travels and talking with individuals that I encountered the great diversity of capability that we have in this country.  And it is this breadth of capability that presented a very unique challenge in trying to develop an operational guidance.

In talking with these individuals, I gained great insight into their needs and the challenges that they're presented with on a daily basis.  I was able to converse with them about their children and their families and share stories, and then they often would pose very challenging questions to me in the process.  Such as one responder in Maryland who asked me if their protocols and technological capabilities were adequate for what was needed in order to make a sound decision and respond appropriately to these suspected bio-threat incidents.  It is a number of these individuals that work directly with us in generating the standards that I really feel help make a better standards product.  Getting their direct feedback and hearing what their needs are and listening to them and trying to incorporate that in the best practices that we then use in a national standard is really critical to the success of that standard.

It is with that feedback that we generated a best practice guidance that provides the key elements for a program to support a response for a bio-threat.  And those elements include training, and the fundamental components and necessary capabilities that the first responders need.  So we're working with our federal partners and stakeholders at the state and local level including individual responders to provide training at regional and national training events.  And this training is customized for the needs of the HAZMAT technicians and helping them understand the resources that they have at the state and federal level in responding to bio-threat incidents.  So by working in these regional venues we can meet with individuals and get feedback on the standards and help to integrate them into the community and address the questions and challenges that individuals have.

I'm consistently impressed with the talent of the civil servants and the responders that I interface with on a regular basis and their commitment and how much of their time and energy they give toward meeting the needs and the public safety of the people of this great country.  And I'm encouraged and thrilled to have individuals approach me with an interest in standards development because we really need those voices and having that feedback from individuals is absolutely critical to producing a successful product.

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