Standards for biothreat agent collection updated

A team of state, federal and local agencies, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and various other organizations have combined forces to update the existing standard for sample collection and overall guidance when dealing with biothreat agents.

Since 2001, there have been over 30,000 responses by U.S. law enforcement agencies to suspicious powders and packages that have been time-consuming, expensive and potentially dangerous, Medical News Today reports.

The original standard for preserving and collecting samples of suspicious powders was published in 2006 at request of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The new guidelines help first responders to collect the sample safely and coordinate with other agencies and organizations more effectively.

Two focus groups from the first responder community helped to form recommendations for the new standard.

“The new guidance explains that first response agencies should do the legwork now to establish relationships they will need in the event of an incident,” Jayne Morrow, an environmental engineer at NIST and leader of the revision project, said, according to Medical News Today. “For example, it provides recommendations regarding who should be at the planning table, and it even recommends creating a laminated card of phone numbers for expert support to enable first responders to effectively address one of these situations. The key message is that, through response coordination and communication, we can effectively deal with an event in a timely and appropriate manner.”