Four cities in State vulnerable to diseases and bioterrorism

Four cities in the State — Bangalore, Mysore, Hubli and Mangalore — have been identified as vulnerable to diseases or bioterrorism. Laboratories and hospitals had been identified to prepare for disasters, said K.L. Sudheer, Additional Director (Fire Services) here on Tuesday.

Karnataka was among the first States to identify cities vulnerable to attacks, based on the standard operating procedures (SOP) developed by the National Disaster Management Authority in 2010, he said.

Mr. Sudheer was speaking to presspersons on the sidelines of a workshop on ‘Best international practices in building resilient cities’, organised by the government in association with Synergia Foundation.

He, however, said that preparedness to tackle diseases and bioterrorism should be monitored regularly. It was necessary to have a crisis management committee, which should meet every six months to monitor implementation, Mr. Sudheer said.

On bioterror

Earlier, the second day of the three-day workshop also saw deliberations on biodisasters and bioterrorism.

Lt. Col. Shailesh Kulkarni, College of Military Engineering, said that it was extremely easy for anyone to launch a bioterror attack. “Samples of certain viruses, which have been stored in laboratories, can pose a serious risk if [anti-social] elements get their hands on these samples,” he said.

Lt. Col. Kulkarni said that measures should be taken — such as disease surveillance, research and development for rapid diagnosis, and rapid reaction teams — for such attacks and monitoring stockpiles of drugs and vaccines. He said that it was crucial that medical and health authorities work together, along with the police and intelligence agencies.

‘Alternative plan must’

Senior policy analyst at Centre for Health and Homeland Security (U.S.) Eric Oddo said that in a crisis, the management agency must always have an alternative crisis management plan. Human capital management, communication, alternative facility, vital resources and equipment were some of the requirements, he listed out for a successful crisis management centre.

He said that an Incident Command System (ICS) was a crucial step in disaster management. It stresses on standardisation of guidelines across all departments, including police, intelligence, health and emergency services. “It is a systematic process where individual units discard their own guidelines and all departments come together under the standardised format,” he added.

Emphasising the importance of being prepared in a crisis, S. Gopal of National Institute of Advanced Studies said that the biggest problem in the country was the cynicism of people pertaining to preparing for disasters. “Till tragedy strikes, no one believes it will strike.”

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