U.S. not preparing enough for attacks, expert says

Greg Evans, the director of the St. Louis Institute for Biosecurity, recently contended that the U.S. effort to increase preparedness for a terrorist attack has slowed considerably in recent years.

Evans said that in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, the United States increased funding for healthcare workers and first responders, but less emphasis has been given ever since, according to NewsWise.com.

“My fear is that we’ve become very complacent about the next terrorist attack. And I definitely think we will have one,” Evans said, NewsWise.com reports. “It’s inevitable. We’re going to be less prepared as the years move forward if the country continues to cut funding for these efforts.”

Evans founded the Center for the Study of Bioterrorism, now the Institute for Biosecurity, in 2000 at Saint Louis University. He used his position to repeatedly call on public health officials to get ready for the threat of bioterrorists who may have gained access to agents such as anthrax, ricin or smallpox.

The warnings were heeded. In a national survey taken just before September 11, 2001, 75 percent of public health officials responded that a terrorist attack was likely in the next five years, but only two percent thought it possible that it could happen in their city.

After September 11, the institute was flooded with requests to provide information and fact sheets because there was little information available.

“We were getting thousands of requests to provide our factsheets and information because there was just nothing else out there; no one else was working in this area,” Evans said, according to Newswise.com. “More and more communities were becoming worried about another bioterrorism event and they wanted to be prepared for it.”

In the years following September 11, 2001, and the 2001 anthrax attacks, Evans said that the government made significant progress in preparing for future attacks. State and local health departments were able to hire bioterrorism experts and first responders received needed training and education.

Evans asserts that recent years have seen preparedness efforts shift more towards pandemic planning and away from bioterrorism, despite a continued need.

“In recent years there has been less emphasis on bioterrorism, but terrorist organizations are still thinking very strongly about using biological agents,” Evans said, NewsWise.com reports. “A recent New York Times article indicated that they are looking at the potential of using ricin in backpack bombs.

“It’s understandable from a psychological standpoint. We don’t want to think about these bad things and the further away we get from 9-11 and the anthrax letters, the less we’re going to focus on them. But that doesn’t make the threat any less real.”