Pandemic Plans Pan Out

If it's not avian flu, it might be a dirty bomb

March 22, 2007

2 Min Read
Network Computing logo

11:30 AM -- Pandemic planning was a big talking point at a business continuity event I attended in New York this week, although attendees painted a slightly rosier picture than speakers at last year's event. (See Biz Continuity Goes Back to Basics, CIOs Ponder Potential Pandemic, and Will DOD Catch Flu?.)

Despite some grave predictions last year, I got the impression that New York firms are now quietly confident of their ability to weather an outbreak of avian flu. Even if there is no pandemic, firms will also be in an even better position to cope with other threats, according to a top government official speaking at yesterday's event.

CIOs living and working in a world financial hub such as New York run the gamut of possible terrorist threats, according to Frank Tabert, deputy director of the New York State Office of Homeland Security. From hacking to dirty bombs, the official reeled off a list of ways in which terrorists could take a bite out of the big apple.

An emerging threat, which has already been used to chilling effect by insurgents in Iraq, is to use toxic substances such as chlorine in conjunction with conventional bombs. Then, according to Tabert, there is the ongoing possibility of a dirty bomb scattering pathogens across the city.

Most firms should be able to cope with these kinds of threats after developing plans to cope with avian flu. "The preparation that you're doing for pandemic flu and disease surveillance falls very nicely into the preparation for biological attack," Tabert told the audience of IT managers and business continuity professionals.The official warned that a biological attack, won't be have the immediacy or explosiveness of something like 9/11. "A biological attack isn't something that you see and feel right away -- people will get sick [and] it could be a while [before] you realize that a biological attack is underway," he said.

The good news is that many firms have already formulated plans for employees to work from home in the event of an attack, and have used transit strikes and other low-level emergencies to test these strategies. (See Panel Ponders Preparedness, IBM Prepares for Pandemics, and Suppliers Prep for Pandemic.)

Here's hoping we never have to put all these worst-case scenarios into action.

James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights