Texas Tri-City Biowatch Exercise
On July 16 – 18, TDEM participated in the Texas Tri-City BioWatch Exercise. The exercise was a combination of both operations-based and discussion-based elements conducted simultaneously in three Texas BioWatch jurisdictions for the first two days. The activities in each jurisdiction focused on local response capabilities and issues. On the third day of the exercise, the Texas BioWatch cities and key state agencies joined the tabletop discussion and hot wash to work on region- and state-level coordination and risk communications associated with a BioWatch event.
The scenario of the exercise involved a domestic terrorist threat and a pathogen or infectious agent. This was the third and the most complex BioWatch exercise to date since the inception of the program. A national multi-BAR (BioWatch Actionable Result) exercise was held in June 2011 followed by another Tri-City exercise in July 2012.
BioWatch is a federally-managed, locally-operated, nationwide bio-surveillance system designed to detect the intentional release of select aerosolized biological agents. The program operates in selected high-threat metropolitan areas across the country and is used to support National Special Security Events.
The program protects millions of people by focusing on early detection of a biological attack. Early detection is critical to the successful treatment of affected populations and provides public health decision makers more time—and thereby more options—in responding to, mitigating, and recovering from a bioterrorist event. BioWatch may also help provide forensic evidence on the source and nature of such an attack, which is critical to law enforcement investigations.
Partnership in Preparedness
The BioWatch has initiated and developed collaborative relationships with state and local public health, law enforcement, and environmental health agencies, strengthening our nation’s overall biodefense preparedness.
A number of key partners play pivotal roles to ensure the program’s success, including:
The objectives for the exercise were:
VIPs who attended the exercise included Dr. Michael V. Walter, BioWatch Program Manager; Karen House, JPM Guardian; and Major Daniel Sweeney, United States Northern Command. Additionally, Dr. Walter; Lieutenant Colonel Shepard Gibson, United States Northern Command; Dr. David Lakey, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services; and Nim Kidd, TDEM Chief.