Bioterror readiness plans available as a template

As hospitals and other health care organizations scramble to review and improve their emergency preparedness plans, many are seeking a template that can be used to create a terrorism response plan. There aren’t a great many of those available, but risk managers may want to look at a few they might find helpful.

  • The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), offers a tool that it says can serve as a reference document and initial template to facilitate preparation of bioterrorism readiness plans for individual institutions. APIC is offering the plan for free.

The Bioterrorism Readiness Plan: A Template for Healthcare Facilities outlines the steps necessary for responding to the biological agents most likely to be employed in any future biological attack: smallpox, botulism toxin, anthrax, and plague. The plan provides information on the unique characteristics, specific recommendations, management, and follow-up appropriate for each of these biological agents. It covers the description, etiology, and mode of transmission of each agent and the necessary isolation precautions, patient management, and post-discharge planning associated with each. The document also provides details regarding post-exposure management, prophylaxis, and decontamination consistent with each pathogen; laboratory support and diagnosis; and protocols for the cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization of equipment and environment.

The plan outlines patient/visitor/public health precautions, and contains some discussion of the psychological and mental health aspects of a bioterrorist event. It also has appendices covering health care worker exposure fact sheets; relevant web sites for bioterrorism readiness; and other necessary information for infection control professionals to have in the event of a bioterrorist attack.

APIC says the format of the Bioterrorism Readiness Plan is easily adapted to suit the individual needs of institutions. "With the mounting concerns regarding threats of bioterrorism throughout the country, the timely appearance of this accessible device is meant to allow infection control professionals and health care epidemiologists in all health care facilities to prepare appropriate plans utilizing established networks to satisfy needs of unique situations," APIC wrote.

There is no charge for the downloaded version of this plan at www.apic.org/bioterror. For print and disk copies, the charge for APIC members is $10, or $18 for nonmembers to cover the shipping costs. Contact APIC at 1275 K St. N.W., Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20005-4006. Telephone: (202) 780-1890.

  • When beefing up your emergency preparedness plan, consider incorporating a biological threats checklist like the one used at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, CA. The checklist, prepared by emergency preparedness consultant Cameron Bruce, CSP, PE, in Orinda, CA, is part of the hospital’s overall emergency preparedness plan. Bruce suggests that risk managers incorporate a similar checklist, modifying the Alta Bates checklist to suit your own needs. (See "Treatment of Biological Agent Exposure," below.)
  • Another source for physician education regarding terrorist attacks is an on-line presentation of lectures presented at New York University Medical Center. They are now available free on the World Medical Leaders web site at www.wml.com. In these lectures, New York University Medical Center faculty discussed hands-on experiences and emergency preparedness for potential biological and chemical attacks in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster. The presenters stressed how essential it is for physicians to be up-to-date on key diagnostic factors, treatments, and reporting procedures. They reviewed chemical and biological agents most likely to be used in an attack. In addition, the presenters discussed what to expect in the psychological and social arenas following a terrorist attack. Speakers included Robert S. Hoffman, MD, medical director of the New York Poison Control Center, as well as leading experts on infectious diseases and psychiatry.