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Detecting Bioterrorist Attacks

A bioterrorist attack against the United States is a constant threat with potentially devastating consequences, including mass casualties, economic instability, and damage to critical infrastructure.  Established in 2003, the DHS BioWatch Program provides early warning of a bioterrorist attack in more than 30 major metropolitan areas across the country.  This early warning helps decision makers plan an effective, coordinated, and rapid response.

BioWatch is managed by the DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office.

How Does It Work

The BioWatch Program provides air-monitoring, analysis, notification procedures, and risk assessment to 30+ jurisdictions.  This program can substantially minimize the catastrophic impact of a biological attack.

BioWatch involves a large network of stakeholders from public health, emergency management, law enforcement, laboratory, scientific, and environmental health organizations around the country who collaborate to detect and prepare a coordinated response to a bioterrorism attack.

Future of BioWatch

As terrorism evolves, DHS constantly improves its programs in order to stay ahead of the enemy.  Currently, DHS is working to upgrade biodetection technology with the intention of:

  • better addressing a wide range of bioterrorism threats;
  • providing real-time data across the Homeland Security enterprise; and
  • improving information-sharing between federal, state, and local operators.

This upgrade to a sustainable, efficient biodetection capability will make Americans safer by improving the ability of first responders and decision makers to act quickly after an attack.

Last Updated: 06/18/2024
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