Experts examine how Sept. 11, 2001, changed U.S. biothreat preparedness

Faculty members of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, including Dr. Theresa Koehler, recently commented on emergency preparedness lessons learned from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 2001 anthrax mailings.

Koehler is the interim chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the UTHealth Medical School. She said she believes that one of the biggest changes in medicine that has occurred because of the attacks is the raise in awareness among caregivers of the symptoms of anthrax infection, according to

In addition, the availability of anthrax fighting countermeasures has increased dramatically. Scientists she collaborates with are currently studying how Bacillus anthracis is able to cause acute anthrax infection in humans and animals in order to develop better treatments as well as detection methods.

Koehler's lab in particular is investigating the bacterium’s physiology and its response to host signals during infection.

Koehler has been at the forefront of anthrax research for the last 30 years.

Dr. Robert Emery is the vice president for safety, health environment and risk management at UTHealth and an associate professor of occupational health at the University of Texas School of Public Health.

Emery said that September 11 did more than just raise security at U.S. airports. More individuals, Emery said, are stocking additional supplies at home in case of an emergency. Their employers are also doing the same, according to

Some of the major technical advancements in emergency planning have come in the form of the development of notification systems, some of which can utilize social media to warn of an impending catastrophe.

Emery has 30 years of experience in risk management.