Blogs from 2014

After the highly publicized events which led to the death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer, Darren Wilson, and the varying eye witness accounts that both substantiated and refuted the version of Officer Wilson, there has been a wave of national support for mandatory police body cameras. President Barack Obama recently held a public safety summit at the White House that was attended by police executives, civil rights groups, and political leaders to discuss how the police and the community can bridge the gap of trust that was apparently void in Ferguson. At the conclusion of the ...Read More
By CHHS Extern Timothy Rice Politicians have claimed that cyber attacks “can shut this country down” and are “the equivalent of today’s nuclear weapon.” Combined with the widespread threat of terrorist activity, the term “cyberterrorism” invokes fear in the public and puts government on high alert. The debate about whether cyberterrorism poses a threat to homeland security must begin with a proper understanding of cyberterrorism in the first place. If we apply the accurate definitions, the concept of cyberterrorism is narrower than most people imagine but still calls for robust defensive postures. There is yet no legal definition of cyberterrorism, ...Read More
A month ago, the Ebola outbreak was dominating the nightly news in the United States. One infected patient in Dallas had died, and an unknown number of medical professionals had been exposed. A man returning from Western Africa came to New York, rode the subway and went bowling. A nurse was quarantined in New Jersey under what she described as “inhumane” conditions. The outbreak even found its way into our own backyard, as the University of Maryland Medical Center handled a suspected Ebola patient. Over the past few weeks, however, Ebola left the front pages. The only person who had ...Read More
By CHHS Research Assistant Laura Merkey Imagine if when faced with a life-threatening situation, ambulatory care is readily accessible and only a few minutes away, by air.  That is exactly the thought that occurred to Alec Momont, a 23 year-old student from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, after his parents lost a neighbor to cardiac arrest because an ambulance wasn’t able to arrive in time. Momont, as part of his final project for the Delft University, has designed an ambulance drone that can fly at 60 miles per hour and has a built-in defibrillator.  In essence, Momont’s idea is ...Read More
By CHHS Law and Policy Analyst Christine Gentry While public opinion favors mandatory quarantines of asymptomatic individuals with possible exposure to Ebola and several states are establishing quarantine policies, little discussion has been given to the cost of quarantine.  Naturally, overall cost will depend on the level of quarantine in place, from mandatory quarantine enforced by state order to voluntary isolation and monitoring. Regardless of the level and method of enforcement, however, most quarantine practices will involve health care services, security or enforcement, and ancillary support services.  While the public health infrastructure is in place to respond to Ebola and ...Read More
By CHHS Research Assistant Laura Merkey Recent news reports and the media have been inundated with accounts of extremist attacks and shootings geared at government buildings or officials. Canadian citizens were shocked when a lone gunman, recently identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, fatally shot a soldier who was guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Zehaf-Bibeau, who was shot and killed in the attack, was Canadian born, had a prior criminal record, and had recently converted to Islam. Shortly after the Ottawa shooting, a man who has been identified as Zale H. Thompson attacked four New York City Police officers, injuring ...Read More
Last week, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implemented its Active Post-Arrival monitoring program to prevent a domestic Ebola outbreak. Under this program, the six states—which includes Maryland, New York, and New Jersey—that see approximately 70% of travelers from West African countries affected by the Ebola epidemic were asked to begin actively monitoring travelers from impacted countries for 21 days. In days following this announcement, controversial quarantine resulted in Nurse Kaci Hickox’s confinement in an isolation tent at a New Jersey Hospital while medical experts and government leaders debated how best to monitor healthcare workers returning ...Read More
By CHHS Research Assistant Andrew Geltman With the creation of new technologies people inevitably find new ways to make money off of them. One such person, Jon Schultz, is in the business of purchasing and reselling domain names. Schultz’ niche however, is purchasing domain names reflecting public health topics that have the potential to become major international crises. Schultz engages in this business by researching emerging diseases. His research has led him to make several high profile acquisitions including, and Schultz gathers such domain names as a form of modern day prospecting. He hopes that the domains ...Read More
Over the weekend, the debate dominated headlines: should states enact a policy for quarantining and isolating individuals potentially exposed to Ebola? New York, New Jersey, and Illinois had already answered “yes”; others, including President Obama, and the Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, argued “no,” citing among other concerns, “unintended consequences.” At the center of the debate was Kaci Hickox, a nurse who returned from West Africa and was quarantined under New Jersey orders. Over the weekend, she described her quarantine as inhumane, and today she has been released to continue her quarantine in her own ...Read More
By CHHS Research Assistant Laura Merkey While the Ebola outbreak is a global concern and has sparked collective fear and apprehension, it is undisputed that healthcare workers have suffered great losses and still face the greatest amount of risk.  In the United States (US), two nurses who helped treat Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas have contracted the virus. One of those nurses, Nina Pham, was transferred to the Special Clinical Studies Unit at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The facility has one of four biocontainment units in the ...Read More
Through our social media outlets, CHHS called upon followers to present questions on Ebola that could be answered here on our blog.  Our first - 'Does Lysol Kill Ebola Germs?' - is answered by Senior Policy Analyst Thomas Cotter, MPH. More information on Lysol, Ebola, transmission of the virus, and CDC infection control guidance:,-2014/  
By CHHS Extern Beryl Harris Considered one of the fastest growing areas of liability insurance, cyber risk insurance has come to the forefront primarily because of the growing number of data security breaches. Managing risks inherent in electronic transactions through insurance is a fairly new concept. Even so, companies both big and small are paying very close attention to this method of mitigating costs associated with cyber risks. So, what exactly is cyber insurance? According to Risk and Insurance (IRMI) online, cyber insurance  aims to cover an array of “both liability and property losses that may result when a business engages in ...Read More
This week, 132 passengers who had traveled on a Frontier Airlines flight from Cleveland to Dallas-Fort Worth received word that a passenger on the plane, Amber Vinson, had tested positive for Ebola. Vinson, a nurse who had helped care for Thomas Eric Duncan while he was being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, says she received the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) permission to board the flight after calling to report that she was running a low-grade fever of 99.5 degrees, which is below the CDC’s fever threshold of 100.4 degrees. While Americans have understandably responded to this ...Read More
Co-authored by CHHS Public Health Program Manager Trudy Henson, JD, and CHHS Research Assistant Andrew Geltman Laws on quarantine and isolation are nothing new in the United States.[1] However, at the time of the country’s founding, quarantine and isolation authority was viewed primarily as the responsibility of local and state governments. The ability of the states to impose quarantine and isolation was and is based on their broad “police powers” reserved in the Tenth Amendment. However, states’ authority to impose quarantine and isolation does not mean that the federal government has no such authority. Very early on, the federal government recognized that ...Read More
The announcement that a second healthcare worker in Texas has been diagnosed with Ebola comes on the heels of a concerning statistic: three out of four nurses in the U.S. are saying they haven’t received proper education from their hospital on an Ebola response. Thirty percent say they don’t believe their hospitals have sufficient supplies, such as protective eyewear and fluid-proof gowns. Spanish nurses had similar thoughts several months ago. In July, 100 Spanish nurses asked a court to review its defenses, because they believed Ebola was likely to arrive in Spain, and felt the healthcare system was ill-equipped to handle the response. The warning is now ...Read More
By CHHS Research Assistant Andrew Geltman The Ebola epidemic has claimed the lives of thousands of people and is so widespread that some have speculated it could lead to the collapse of the Liberian state. The crisis has demonstrated the importance of having effective countermeasures to virulent diseases. Without countermeasures, Ebola’s death rate can be as high as 90 percent. Though the dangers of Ebola have been known for decades and even popularized, the pharmaceutical industry has paid little attention to developing countermeasures for the disease. The lack of interest to develop Ebola countermeasures from the pharmaceutical industry is based on return on investment for such products. The pharmaceutical industry has ...Read More
As news spread that a Texas healthcare worker had contracted Ebola when treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the CDC announced that the United States (US) needs to re-think its infection controls. The healthcare worker likely contracted the virus during a breach in protocols, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is quick to state it is not blaming the healthcare worker. Rather, the case underscores the difficulty of providing medical care for those sick with this highly infectious disease, and the importance of clear protocols that are closely followed by everyone. The CDC has been issuing guidance for US healthcare facilities for months. ...Read More
By CHHS Research Assistant R. Justin Morris In the past few years, the need for critical infrastructure protection from terrorist threats has been a talking point among politicians and security experts regularly. The discussion gained momentum last year after individuals attacked an electric power station in the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite the fact that these individuals were found to have no affiliation with any terrorist organization, Congress and the media coverage nonetheless largely focused on the threat that terrorism presents. However, few on Capitol Hill have discussed the natural threats impacting our nation’s infrastructure now, and in particular the ...Read More
October marks Cybersecurity Awareness Month. For the past 11 years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has used this month to engage and educate the public about cyber threats and how to protect against them. Everyone has become more cognizant of the many cyber risks we face over the past decade. Hardly a day goes by where we don’t hear about another security breach or hacking attempt. Whether it’s a large retailer like Target or Home Depot, or a big financial institution like JP Morgan Chase, no one is immune from the mounting threats. So, while government is certainly doing ...Read More
With the first case of Ebola confirmed in Dallas, Texas, the deadly virus has officially come to the United States. Although thought of as inevitable by some, the case raises a number of questions: Are traveling screening protocols sufficient? Did the hospital initially drop the ball by releasing the patient when he first presented? And of course, are we ready? A number of sources have speculated on what an Ebola response would look like in the U.S., but with this first diagnosis we are now getting a clearer picture. The Texas Health Department has issued an order to the family ...Read More
By CHHS Research Assistant Laura Merkey California’s 6.0 magnitude earthquake, which rocked the Napa Valley region last August, has created economic losses of up to $1 billion. It was the strongest earthquake that the region has experienced in over 25 years. Destruction included ruptured gas and water mains, demolished homes and businesses, sparked fires, and injured more than 100 people. The spokesman for California’s Emergency Management Agency emphasized that the recent quake was a reminder that the entire state, not just earthquake-prone cities such as San Francisco, are vulnerable to the threat of earthquakes. The earthquake exposed the weaknesses in ...Read More
By CHHS Research Assistant Timothy Rice In an unusually rapid escalation of perceived strength, the Islamic State (IS) has graduated from a mere “jayvee team” of terrorists, as President Obama described IS in January of this year, to join Al Qaeda in the big leagues. Months after his comment, the U.S. government began to characterize IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS, as a cancer that must be dismantled and destroyed. This rise in concern comes on the heels of widely-reported genocidal measures IS has undertaken against Iraqi minorities, and most recently, the filmed beheadings of two American journalists. As Republicans and ...Read More
Bio Hazard Scientists As the Ebola outbreak death toll rises to over 900 people, the World Health Organization (WHO) leaders are convening an emergency meeting to address what could become a much larger outbreak of the virus. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has moved to a Level 1 activation, reserved for the most serious public health emergencies, indicating it believes the outbreak could be long and serious. Indeed, the outbreak that started in Guinea—and is confirmed in Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone—is one of the largest Ebola outbreaks on record. It’s receiving attention for other record-breaking reasons ...Read More
Wall of Sandbags By CHHS Research Assistant Mona Qureshi Sea levels have risen an average 8 inches in the past century, leaving American cities struggling to keep their heads above water. Yet outdated, quick fixes to curb flooding and other disasters across the country continue to be used today. Recognizing the overwhelming costs of using the same flawed band-aids years after year, the federal government has recently turned to competitive outlets for innovative ideas in resiliency. Specific to flooding, the Rebuild by Design competition for creative disaster mitigation was launched in 2013. Teams consisted of engineers, architects, scientists, and urban planners. Instead of ...Read More
By CHHS Research Assistant Andrew Geltman Call it an educated prediction, keen foresight, or just a good guess, the Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS) has been warning about the potential dangers of mishandled bacterial and viral agents at our nation’s bioterrorism research facility since 2009 when Founder and Director Michael Greenberger testified before Congress. At the time Director Greenberger urged caution and an overhaul of the regulatory regime that governed the handling of dangerous agents. And as recently as this February, CHHS and the Middle Atlantic Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging and Infectious Diseases hosted a ...Read More
CHHS is in the midst of a year-long campus security assessment of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), our homebase. Primary UMB partners within this project are the University Police Force and Environmental Health and Safety.  The fundamental objectives are to review, revise, and test the emergency operating and continuity of operations plans from across all sectors of the institution. A series of six emergency exercises are currently underway as part of this project, formulated by CHHS’ Exercise and Training staff, that will serve to evaluate whether the emergency plans developed can be effectively implemented during a real-life crisis. The ...Read More
By CHHS Research Assistant Laura Merkey On June 17, 2014, California Senator and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein released a draft of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), drafted in collaboration with Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss.  As Senator Feinstein’s website explains, the bill is aimed at creating incentives for sharing information about potential cybersecurity threats between the private and public sectors.  CISA accomplishes this in part by relaxing laws creating liability for this type of information sharing, authorizing companies to monitor their networks, and directing the federal government to share information with the private sector at both the ...Read More
By CHHS Research Assistant R. Justin Morris “There are two kinds of big companies in the United States: those who’ve been hacked by the Chinese and those who don’t yet know that they’ve been hacked by the Chinese.” This statement by FBI Director James Comey to a Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year describes where the U.S. finds itself today in the realm of cybersecurity: Sub-par and in need of development.  As Director Comey’s comment alludes to, the private sector’s lack of attention to cybersecurity in past years has allowed nation-state actors like the Chinese, individual hackers, and online fraud ...Read More
By CHHS Research Assistant Laura Merkey Hosting a World Cup is expensive – among other costs, the infrastructure and security needed to prepare the 12 host cities for the roughly 800,000 fans expected to flood into Brazil this summer has cost the country a stunning $11.3 billion dollars.  To further complicate the logistics and security concerns, citizens angered over the significant government expenditures have turned to rioting in the streets, while other key employees, such as airport and subway workers, have gone on strike.  As can be imagined, these complications have caused the traffic in Brazil to become a foremost ...Read More
It's not a surprising number from the National Emergency Number Association: 70 to 80 percent of the calls that most of the 9-1-1 centers across the country now receive are from mobile phones. And as more and more people give up their home landlines and rely exclusively on mobile phones that percentage is expected to rise even higher during the next several years. Eight in 10 people also use their cell phones to send and receive text message. But, except in a few areas of the country, you can't communicate via text messaging with a 9-1-1 center, also called a ...Read More
Working with Maryland's Statewide Interoperability Office, the CHHS staffers that make up the Maryland Broadband Team played a key role in three recent public safety forums that helped spread the word about the State’s progress with its public safety technology programs and how agencies around the State can get involved. Lori Stone, CHHS Senior Law and Policy Analyst, working as the State Broadband Coordinator in the Maryland Statewide Interoperability Program Management Office, worked closely with the Governor's Office of Homeland Security, the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, the Maryland State Police (MSP), and the Department of Information Technology ...Read More
May 6, 2014 Update - More Frightening Developments... and Some HopeOn Friday, May 2, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) published the first confirmed report of a MERS-CoV infection in the United States. The patient was discovered in Indiana on April 24 after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia. While the story of the infected person has not yet been completely unveiled, we do know that they are a health care worker that practiced in Saudi Arabia during their ongoing outbreak. As in the 2003 SARS outbreak, healthcare workers seem to be amongst the at risk categories ...Read More
In 1998, Andrew Wakefield and twelve co-authors published an article in the highly regarded scientific journal, The Lancet, associating the combined Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine with gastrointestinal issues that could, in turn cause a type of autism.  The retrospective study focused on twelve English children post MMR vaccination that developed “severe mental regressions.”  The study’s analysis suggested the correlation between the mental regression and the vaccination in eight cases “may have occurred together by chance, reflecting a selection bias in a self-referred group” because the twelve children were brought into the study at the behest of their parents ...Read More
By Bonnie Portis, CHHS Extern After action reports stemming from both natural and man-made disasters over the past decade have demonstrated a recurring problem – the inability of medical providers to ensure adequate continuity of care for hospital patients and those who have chronic health conditions or other functional needs when patient records are destroyed or unavailable.  The lesson?  Having personal medical information on-hand can be a life saver in the event of a disaster.In 2005, the rising floodwaters of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita resulted in the total failure of healthcare facilities and their infrastructure.  In the wake of this catastrophe, ...Read More
When a major disaster strikes a community, there are more than just first responder rescue efforts to consider.  Notification and reunification of family members during and after a mass casualty event is a key part of emergency management, requiring many different organizations to work together in order to address the behavioral health needs of a community.   On March 18, 2014, Montgomery County, MD practiced its capability to respond to behavioral health issues resulting from a mass casualty incident, as well as the readiness of public and private partners, through a simulated family reunification center. To test Montgomery County’s current capability, ...Read More
On March 26, 2014, I had the pleasure of serving as a guest speaker at a Faith-Based Emergency Preparedness Summit at Trinity Washington University entitled “Faith-in-Action.”The Summit was organized and facilitated by ServeDC, whose mission is to engage District of Columbia (D.C.) communities by building partnerships and organizational capacity, and serving as the local lead for national volunteer and service initiatives. The purpose of “Faith-in-Action” was to provide a forum for representatives from local religious institutions to come and receive information, templates, guidance, and best practices related to emergency planning.  Presentations were delivered by esteemed individuals from organizations such as the ...Read More
Recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed extensive new emergency preparedness requirements for American health care facilities. Describing emergency preparedness as an “urgent public health issue,” the proposed rule outlines new requirements designed to prevent the types of severe disruptions to health care that followed the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, tornado events in Missouri and Oklahoma in 2011, and Superstorm Sandy. The proposed requirements aim to bring regulatory consistency to Medicare and Medicaid participating providers and suppliers. The proposal describes the current regulatory landscape as a “patchwork of federal, state, and local laws ...Read More
By Amond Uwadineke, CHHS Extern When you think of emergency preparedness, do you think of the role that a pharmacist could play in a disaster? Why would we want our local Rite Aid or Walgreens pharmacist to be involved in emergency preparedness? It may be surprising to you, but the unique skills that pharmacists possess would make them a valuable asset to emergency planning, preparedness, and response.Besides the usual job of dispensing prescription medication and patient education, pharmacists could also provide surveillance of pandemic diseases, distribution of medical supplies, and with extra training they could even triage. Just think of how pharmacists, who ...Read More
Snow days were the best when I was growing up in Milwaukee Wisconsin (where they get “real” winters more often than not).  We would build forts as tall as adults and trudge home hours later for hot chocolate and cartoons.  Fast forward decades and travel across country to Maryland, and this feels like the longest winter in years.  Abundant storms this year have forced many schools to close and employees to stay home because of dangerous travel conditions and power outages.  Yet vacation days are not the only casualties of this winter.  Working in emergency management grants and finance, I ...Read More
Preparing Kids for Severe Weather Severe storms and natural disasters can be very frightening for kids, especially if they are unsure of what to do during these weather events.  Including kids in storm preparedness activities and talking to them about their fears of a storm can help them cope during a severe weather event.  While it’s important to include kids in preparedness planning, it can also be a fun family activity.  To help families make severe weather preparedness more fun and engaging for younger children, a local group, the Montgomery County Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT), is hosting its first ...Read More
This week, March 2-8th, is Severe Weather Preparedness Week. According to NOAA, in 2013 there were seven severe weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States.  This large economic impact and potential effect on day-to-day life is becoming the new normal. Many of these severe weather events, from hurricanes to wildland fire to severe heat and drought can be connected directly or indirectly to climate change. From a geological perspective, the climate of the Earth has changed continuously overtime. This is due to a variety of factors from the position of the landmasses ...Read More
It was twenty five years ago this month that our society began to use the Global Positioning System, or GPS, that we know of today.  The concept of GPS was simple:  to help an individual locate their current location or a target that needs to be identified with great accuracy.  As with many technological breakthroughs, this application was designed exclusively for the United States military to support global operations on land, air, and sea.  The GPS network was employed with particular vigor in the U.S. nuclear arsenal targeting system and thankfully has yet to be used in this capacity.  The ...Read More
By R. Justin Morris, CHHS Research Assistant On Thursday, February 13, 2014 the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released its highly-anticipated Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. The framework is a national, voluntary set of standards to help both private and public organizations manage cybersecurity risks. As the discussion on this framework ensues, it’s important for us to sit back and take notice of the severity of cyber threats in the world today, and the variety in which they come that makes it so difficult to defend against them. The motives of cyber-attacks are surprisingly varied, and include ...Read More
By Crystal Schroeder, CHHS Extern On the heels of Winter Storm Leon in Atlanta, Georgia, the city and surrounding counties put their emergency management plan into action for a three-day winter storm beginning February 10, 2014.  Comparing these two reactions demonstrates that emergency response is, at its core, a collection of decisions, each of which is made by balancing the costs, benefits, and implications of initiating emergency plans.  In making a particular decision, there is simultaneously the risk of under-reacting, and the risk of over-reacting to the situation at hand.  The decisions whether or not to close schools and businesses, ...Read More
This year’s event focused on the finding the balance between critical biodefense research and protecting the public from any misuse of this research On February 10, 2014, CHHS convened a conference attended by nearly 85 scientists, public health officials, first responders, and the lay public to discuss Dual Use Research of Concern (DURC). DURC is defined as “life sciences research that, based on current understanding, can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied to pose a significant threat with broad potential consequences to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, ...Read More
Schools – public, private, and independent – have a responsibility to prevent, protect, mitigate, respond, and recover from emergencies and disasters that can affect staff members and students.  As we’ve sadly witnessed from Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 to Moore, Oklahoma in 2013, our schools are susceptible to a wide range of natural and human-caused disasters.  Now is the time to take the appropriate steps to prepare for future threats. Working to address an identified gap in school crisis planning among private and independent schools, the National Capital Region Regional Planners Subcommittee will be hosting three School Preparedness Seminars this spring ...Read More
This blog was co-authored by Senior Law and Policy Analyst Christopher Webster, JD. For more than seven years staff members with the Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS) have been working on interoperability programs around Maryland to ensure that first responders have the technology, tools, and operational support to do their job safely and efficiently. From working on the Executive Order that established the Statewide Interoperability Program Management Office in 2008, to setting up and managing regional interoperability groups, to laying the groundwork for legislation introduced in 2014 to oversee the Statewide 700MHz radio communications system, staff have been closely involved ...Read More
In 2012, the class of “[a]ll people with disabilities, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act [(ADA)] who are within the City of New York and the jurisdiction served by the City of New York’s emergency preparedness program and services” was certified in a lawsuit that proceeded against the City of New York (NYC) and Mayor Bloomberg.  In the case of Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled v. Bloomberg, the Plaintiffs argued that the City failed to adequately plan for people with disabilities in violation of the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and the New York City Human Rights ...Read More