In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attack on the country, then Governor Jeb Bush directed and approved the formation of seven "Regional Domestic Security Task Forces". The responsibilities of these task forces are:
- Improve Florida's ability to detect and prevent potential terrorist threats.
- Train and equip public safety first responders and disaster response teams.
- Improve Florida's response and recovery capabilities.
- Promote better public awareness of suspicious incidents and how they may be reported.
- How to respond should an emergency situation develop.
What is bioterrorism?
Bioterrorism is a deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs (agents) used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. These agents are typically found in nature, but it is possible that they could be changed to increase their ability to cause disease, make them resistant to current medicines, or to increase their ability to be spread into the environment. Biological agents can be spread through the air, through water, or in food. Terrorists may use biological agents because they can be extremely difficult to detect and do not cause illness for several hours to several days. Some bioterrorism agents, like the smallpox virus, can be spread from person to person and some, like anthrax, cannot.
The Health Department's Role
The Health Department continues to work on enhancing its system for early detection of disease outbreaks. It is also working with community partners in developing a response to a bioterrorism event. This includes not only biological agents such as anthrax and smallpox, but chemical agents and nuclear devices as well. Emergency Preparedness coordinates efforts with health/medical facilities to:
- Develop a unified, all-hazard response plan.
- Train and educate medical providers and others concerning potential disease threats and chemical decontamination.
- Develop infrastructure and equipment needs to assist in properly protecting and treating the public through the proper allocation of resources.