For the United States, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent anthrax scare raised the specter of future attacks involving any number of hazards. After these events the federal government embarked on a series of projects to support communities in their emergency preparedness for a full range of potential threats. The federal initiatives encouraged state and local transportation agencies, which have a long history of preparedness for severe weather, to expand preparedness to encompass man-made emergencies, including the release of biohazards.
Emergency transportation operations during a biohazard incident may differ significantly from those required in other types of emergencies, such as hurricanes, floods or snow-storms. The release of a biohazard is not likely to be known ahead of time (unlike weather conditions). Further, the detection of biohazards is difficult before and during their release because they are predominantly colorless, odorless and are easily concealed. Note also that, the variety of biohazards renders their identification challenging. They consist of three main types: bacteria, viruses and biological toxins, with effects that may not be evident immediately but emerge over time. Another complicating factor is that biohazards can be released intentionally, accidentally or through naturally occurring processes in the environment. The appropriate emergency response may differ depending on the cause of release. If the release is intentional, the transportation network itself could be a target. Finally, transportation management during a biohazard emergency may require simultaneous but conflicting operations, such as minimizing the mobility of exposed populations, evacuating non-exposed populations and maximizing the mobility of responders.
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