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August 6, 1997

National Health and Medical Services Response to Incidents of Chemical and Biological Terrorism

Author Affiliations

From the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey, Calif.

JAMA. 1997;278(5):362-368. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550050022007

In response to the growing threat of terrorism with chemical and biological weapons, the US government has developed a national concept of operations for emergency health and medical services response. This capability was developed and tested for the first time during the Atlanta Olympic Games in the summer of 1996. In the event of a chemical or biological terrorist incident that exceeded local and state-level response capabilities, federal agencies would provide specialized teams and equipment to help manage the consequences of the attack and treat, decontaminate, and evacuate casualties. The US Congress has also established a Domestic Preparedness Program that provides for enhanced training of local first-responders and the formation of metropolitan medical strike teams in major cities around the country. While these national response capabilities are promising, their implementation to date has been problematic and their ultimate effectiveness is uncertain.