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Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

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First Responder Knowledge and Training Needs for Bioterrorism

Heather C. Galada / Patrick L. Gurian / Tao Hong
Published Online: 2013-10-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2012-0064


In order to understand gaps in bioterrorism training, we surveyed 70 first responders about their training for an anthrax event. A total of 82.6% of participants had some training, but most were trained on-site by someone from their facility. Internet-based training was rarely employed and may be an under-utilized resource. Participants were fairly confident about most of their skills and training, but a plurality was not comfortable with the use of on-scene testing devices or responding to an outdoor release. Efforts to assess first responder knowledge of dispersion in both the indoor and outdoor environment suggest that first responders may underestimate the spread of anthrax. For an indoor release, 58% did not think that other parts of the building would be affected and 3% thought no environmental decontamination was needed even in the room of the release. In fact, 15% thought they could put their personal protective gear on inside the building (as actually happened in 2001) when experience has shown these areas are contaminated. In the outdoor environment downwind transport was underestimated and cross-wind transport overestimated.

Keywords: needs assessment; training priorities; biological contamination; emergency responder


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About the article

Corresponding author: Heather C. Galada, Drexel University, e-mail:

Published Online: 2013-10-14

Published in Print: 2013-10-01

Citation Information: Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Volume 10, Issue 2, Pages 631–660, ISSN (Online) 1547-7355, ISSN (Print) 2194-6361, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2012-0064.

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