DHS proposes guidelines for anthrax responders

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced proposed guidelines Oct. 27 for protecting emergency responders during an anthrax attack on a major U.S. city.

"Protecting our first responders during terrorist attacks is critical to our nation’s security," Napolitano said.

The proposal recommends measures such as personal protective equipment and decontamination and hygiene procedures for first responders, public health and medical professionals, skilled support personnel, essential workers in critical infrastructure sectors, certain federal and private sector employees, and volunteers.

The guidelines were developed by a federal working group consisting of experts from more than a dozen agencies relating to biodefense, infectious diseases, and occupational health and safety.

The guidelines are also intended to support ongoing planning and preparation efforts for protecting responders engaged in environmental sampling and remediation, as well as others in responder roles.

The public will have 30 days to comment on the proposal.

"It is essential that all responders have the appropriate protections available to them to be able to operate while minimizing exposure to these lethal threats," said Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alexander Garza. "This proposed guidance will help keep responders healthy and safe while remaining consistent with operational realities."