Overview of Subject Matter: Biological warfare has got to do with the utilization of a wide range of microorganisms such as fungi, viruses, or bacteria to harm a human target (or in rare cases, to harm plants and animals). Essentially, “biothreat agents have the potential to produce a life-threatening illness” (The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2012).
Situation: a Democratic-Republican National Convention (DNRC) event has been convened in Miami, Florida.
Threat: Biological WMD Agent. In the recent past, there have been reports of “biological development programs and arsenals in foreign countries, attempts to acquire or possess biological agents by militants” (CDC, 2000). These, coupled with terror threats the U.S. faces warrants an assessment of the threat posed to the DNRC event with regard to the release of a biological agent.
Facilitator/Crime Scene Investigations Workgroup Chairperson: Major Susan Baker, Commander of the Crime Investigations Bureau of the Miami-Dade Police Department
First Meeting of the Crime Scene Investigations Workgroup: Key Stakeholders to be Invited
Invitees in General: representatives from the Local, State, as well as Federal Government
Rationale: it is important to note that the most effective response to a significant biological attack will most likely demand for additional funds and other resources from not only the regional but also the State and Federal governments.
1. Representatives from Florida Division of Emergency Management
This division handles both natural and man-made disasters and has the capability to respond to incidents that involve nuclear and other hazardous materials.
2. Florida Department of Law Enforcement
There would be need to invite representatives from Florida Department of Law enforcement, especially given that the said department is responsible for the coordination of all Municipal Police Departments and overall promotion of public safety.
3. Representatives from Florida Department of Health
Given the nature of the threat, there is need to bring those responsible for the improvement as well as promotion of the health of the people of Florida on board.
1. Miami-Dade Police Department
2. Representatives from the Office of the Mayor
3. Representatives from the Community Action and Human Services Department
1. Representatives from the U.S. Secret Service
Given that the DNRC event satisfies the criteria necessary to be certified a National Special Security Event, the U.S. Secret Service will be invited.
Key Issues Associated with a Biological Agent Release
Biological Agents Likely to be Used
The choice of agent remains an important variable in the realm of biological warfare. Some of the agents of significant concern listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include: botulism, filoviruses, plague, smallpox, tularemia, and anthrax (CDC, 2000). It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive. In that regard, therefore, there is still a possibility that terrorists could produce surprise agents.
In this context, the relevance of identifying biological agent primary infection routes cannot be overstated. Infection could occur via skin abrasions, ingestion, as well as inhalation of aerosol. It is important to note that of the three primary routes identified in this case, aerosol inhalation is of greatest concern — largely because of the fact that it could be utilized in mass gatherings such as the DRNC event to infect large numbers of people.
Dissemination of Aerosol
The dispersion of biological agents could most likely assume the aerosol route, via the utilization of a wide range of devices including, but not limited to, spray devices (when the agent is in the form of dry powder or liquid), explosive devices, etc. Dry powder dispersion could also be done via natural dissemination. Thanks to its ease of release and significantly high aerosol efficiency, dry power posses the highest risk during the DRNC event.
Indicators of the Occurrence of a Biological Event
Unlike is the case with other conventional weapons such as bombs or chemical weapons, the detection of an attack of a biological nature could take a while. The very first sign of an event of a biological nature, from a response point-of-view, would be appearance of sick individuals in emergency rooms and clinics. On this front, it is important to note that for most biological agents, the period of incubation before the appearance of symptoms could vary from a couple of hours to a few days. It took two weeks for Robert Stevens, a photo editor at The Sun, to develop symptoms and subsequently be hospitalized after sniffing anthrax powder dispatched via post (ABC, 2011).
The most appropriate communication approach to make use of in this scenario would ideally contain all the basic tenets of emergency risk communication. The most important components of such communication include, acknowledgement of uncertainty, expression of the system of response in place, dissemination of anticipatory guidance, and minimization of panic. While acknowledgement of uncertainty and expression of the system of response in place should aim at admitting the distress of the audience, with regard to the situation and expressing the process in place to contain the situation; dissemination of anticipatory guidance and minimization of panic should focus on letting the audience know what to expect and offering the official position so as to avert instances of poor judgment.
Guidelines for Crime Scene Investigations Personnel Responding to the Incident
Two things are of great importance when it comes to the response to an incident of this nature and handling of bioterror materials: the safety of crime scene investigations personnel and the need to prevent not only the contamination but also the destruction or loss of evidence.
Critical information could be gathered from first responders, including witnesses and bystanders. Conduction of scene assessment could also help determine the need for additional personnel or resources. The scene also ought to be evaluated for secondary threats including, but not limited to IEDs.
Crime scene investigations personnel responding to the incident should be donned in protective gear, including gloves, respiratory protection approved by the NIOSH, and protective clothing.
Boundary Definition and Control
The control of boundaries is of great importance when it comes to not only the protection of crime scene but also securing of evidence. It is recommended that boundaries “be established beyond the initial scope of the crime scene(s) with the understanding that the boundaries can be reduced in size if necessary but cannot be as easily expanded” (FBI, 2000). It is also important that evidence that could be lost be preserved or protected from tire tracks, or such elements as wind and rain.
Incident Report and other Relevant Documentation
There is also need for an incident report to be completed. Ideally, this could be completed with the inceptive responding law enforcement agency. Copies of the report could then be forwarded to the relevant agencies. There is also need to ensure that chain of custody of evidence is maintained. On principle, the documentation required is largely founded on the outcome of scene assessment (FBI, 2000). In that regard, therefore, such documentation as notes, sketches, video, or photography could be utilized. In essence, “a well-documented scene ensures the integrity of the investigation and provides a permanent record for latter evaluation” (FBI, 2000).
Collection of Evidence
All physical evidence possibilities ought to be considered. The search pattern adopted on this front should be systematic. It should be noted that to avoid instances where subsequent processing is compromised by initial techniques, the FBI recommends that a progression of collection as well as processing methods be selected (FBI, 2000).
There is a high likelihood that residual hazard could occasion or lead to additional casualties. In that regard, therefore, the relevance of physical protection cannot be overstated as a precautionary measure or safeguard during the collection of evidence.
Sanitization and Disposal of Tools and Equipment
The FBI recommends that single-use equipment be utilized “when performing direct collection of biological samples” (FBI, 2000). Further, personal protective and other tools should be disposed or sanitized after the collection of evidence and/or exit of scene.
ABC. (2011). 2001 Anthrax Attacks Timeline: Five Die after Letters Mailed. Retrieved from http://www.wjla.com/articles/2011/10/2001-anthrax-attacks-timeline-five-die-after-letters-mailed-68155.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — CDC. (2000). Biological and Chemical Terrorism: Strategic Plan for Preparedness and Response. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr4904a1.htm
FBI. (2000). Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide for Law Enforcement- Research Report. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/lab/forensic-science-communications/fsc/april2000/twgcsi.pdf
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2012). Biological Attack: The Danger. Retrieved from http://www.dhs.gov/biological-attack-danger
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