|Security Alert: Using Infectious Disease (s) As Weapons!|
|By William Sturgeon|
Unless you have been living in the woods under a rock, you have heard about the Ebola outbreak and the first person in America to die from the virus in Texas. I decided to write this article because I am a big believer in the old adage - “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I did not write this article to scare people; rather, I wrote it so that people will think about the possibility, and start to prepare and plan for it.
Since September 11, 2001, I have cautioned “JAILS” to be on the alert for people (being booked) who might have infectious or contagious diseases. Infectious and contagious diseases should be considered additional weapons in the terrorist arsenal.
When I work on emergency / contingency plans, the following quote from the 911Report resonates in my mind. "We were unprepared. We did not grasp the magnitude of a threat that had been gathering over a considerable period of time. As we detail in our report, this was a failure of policy, management, capability, and, above all, a failure of imagination."  I am especially aware of this portion of the quote by Chairman Thomas Kean - “ above all, a failure of imagination.”
When your enemy does not fear dying or in some cases has a desire to die for their cause, anything is possible. Recruiting followers to be infected with the Ebola virus, or other contagious diseases, with the intention of infecting other people, is probable and, in my opinion, turning a disease into a weapon – “Bioterrorism”! Sheriff and jail administrators should use this time to insure that they and their facilities are prepared for this new type of terrorist threat.
Now is the time for jails to increase their intake and processing vigilance, to include but not be limited to the following:
It is believed that for people to become infected, they have to have direct contact with body fluids from a person who is “contagious”. If terrorists were going to use Ebola as a weapon, they would certainly devise methods for engaging in direct contact, especially in a correctional setting. For example:
Correctional staff should adhere to strict “Universal Precautions” and wash their hands often during their shift. They should CHANGE THEIR PROTECTIVE GLOVES AFTER TOUCHING EACH DETAINEE. So often I have seen officers shake down detainees/inmates with the same pair of gloves, going from one inmate to another. Additionally, I have seen them wipe their eyes or foreheads. BE CAREFUL! (A doctor in Madrid says the Spanish nurse infected with Ebola remembers touching her face with her gloves after treating a dying priest.) 
I have believed, since the attacks on 911, that if terrorists wanted to use a biological attack to spread terror in the Unites States, they could and would use jails. My rationale for this is as follows. Before anyone could identify the initial source, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, would have been exposed to the disease, and large numbers could be infected, thereby, possibly infecting other people with whom they came in contact. For example, think of how fast head lice and scabies spread through a jail because of the close contact among the detainees, as well as the poor personal hygiene of many of the detainees/inmates.
Contagious person(s) are arrested and brought into the booking area on a busy Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night. The person is held in jail until Monday, (depending on the jurisdiction) thereby exposing and potentially infecting everyone he/she comes in contact with during their stay - staff, other detainees, inmates, and perhaps some religious and/or volunteers.
On Monday, the contagious detainee(s) are loaded into a transportation van and moved to the courtroom (again depending upon the location). If it is a courtroom arraignment, even more people could be exposed. Whether, in a courtroom or through video arraignment, the contagious detainee(s) are either held or released. Regardless of the outcomes of the arraignment processes, the potential for a great number of people to be exposed has existed.
The cycle could look like this:
One contagious detainee + arresting officer(s) + booking staff (3 officers) + 10 detainees + transportation officers(s) + courtroom personnel (2 officers) + appointed attorney + remanded to jail or released. Now, several people have been exposed to the disease.
Some other conditions that should be taken into consideration when analyzing why jails may be a prime target for this type of “Bio-Terrorist” attack are that so many of the detainees/inmates:
Being Prepared for the Worst
Some suggestions for what should be part of the facility’s planning process:
Develop policies and procedures for the following concerns:
The securing of the facility at the first suspicion that a detainee(s) is exhibiting the symptoms of the disease.
There should be a procedure in place for correctional personnel to communicate with their families, etc.
There should be a plan to operate the facility with “ONLY” the personnel who are quarantined within the facility, until other arrangements can be made.
Identify the number of Hazmat suits and where the facility would get them. Total Hazmat precautions must be part of this plan. This means anything coming in and anything going out, to include trash.
Train and practice operating the facility wearing the Hazmat Suits.
REMEMBER, IF THIS IS IN FACT A TERRORIST PLANNED EXPOSURE, THE PLAN COULD ALSO INCLUDE ATTEMPTING TO DISRUPT THE ORDERLY OPERATIONS OF THE FACILITY – SO SECURITY PERSONNEL NEED TO BE PREPARED FOR THAT EVENTUALITY.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I decided to write it because I am a big believer in the old saying - “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I did not write this article to scare people; rather, I wrote it so that criminal justice professionals will start planning and prepare for the possibility of either detainees or visitors seeking to infect people with Ebola or other infectious /contagious diseases simply to provoke terror, and to disrupt the orderly operations of jails throughout the country.
All of us live in a far different world since September 11, 2001, but as long as we are prepared for eventualities, we should be OK.
BREAK NEWS! A nurse who cared for the man who died from Ebola has proven positive for the virus, “In the first case of Ebola transmission in the United States, a Texas nurse who treated an Ebola-stricken Liberian man has tested positive for the deadly virus. The diagnosis was confirmed Sunday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four days after the death of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas.” 
One last thought - if you think that this article may have caused some terrorist groups to consider using this tactic you are wrong, because in all probability they already have thought of it!
 911 Report  http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/symptoms/  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29539444  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/10/12/dallas-health-care-worker-who-treated-thomas-eric-duncan-has-tested-positive-for-ebola/?tid=pm_national_pop
Mt. Sturgeon is a decorated Vietnam veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division.
Visit the Bill Sturgeon page
Other articles by Sturgeon:
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT