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Domestic Preparedness in the Age of Terrorism: The Roles of Public Health and Emergency Response Systems

NCJ Number
Date Published
15 pages
This paper presents background information for a 2002 New Jersey Policy Forum whose goal was to develop guidelines for New Jersey's coordinating and organizing of bioterrorism preparedness activities among its public health and public safety systems.
Preparedness issues identified in this paper include the training and education of the public health and emergency workforces; the capacity of public health laboratories; epidemiology and surveillance; information and data systems to communicate, analyze, and interpret health data; communications systems among agencies and the public; a framework for coordination and collaboration; and policy and evaluation. Experts in the field have focused on the critical need to bridge communication gaps between primary care physicians who may diagnose a bioterrorist disease and public health agencies who must launch a coordinated response to address the attack. After an overview of bioterrorism threats and responses, this paper discusses general issues in public health and preparedness and the role of public health and preparedness. One section of this paper notes the financial restrictions that limit the ability of localities and States to implement preparedness plans. This leads to a discussion of the Federal role in helping States and localities to develop adequate preparedness systems. The paper then focuses on New Jersey's preparedness efforts. The State's leadership has begun to plan and implement counterterrorism measures; for example, on April 12, 2002, Governor McGreevey and New York Governor Pataki announced a bi-State initiative to increase security measures at area airports. The Office of Counter-Terrorism in Governor McGreevey's Office is responsible for administering, coordinating, and leading New Jersey's counterterrorism and preparedness efforts. During the State legislature's 2000-2001 session, the New Jersey Domestic Security Preparedness Act was passed, establishing a program of laboratory services to detect and analyze biological and chemical agents that may be or have been used in the commission of terrorist acts or any other technological disaster. In 1999, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) received a $1 million, 1-year grant (renewed annually) from the Centers for Disease Control to strengthen the State's overall public health system in responding to threats to public health. The funds have targeted three areas: expanding surveillance systems; creating a 24-hour-a-day rapid communications system that links all levels of government, the health care community, and emergency response personnel; and expanding laboratory capacity to test for biological agents that may be used in a terrorist attack. Other sections of this paper address New Jersey's public health infrastructure, public health funding, workforce issues, and the roles of hospital and emergency room care in preparedness. 12 notes and 24 references