WASHINGTON—On June 17, Acting Assistant Secretary Gary Rasicot of the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD) traveled to Columbus, Ohio, for a series of meetings with state and local leaders on the Ohio BioWatch Program, and yesterday, CWMD’s Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary (ADAS) for Operations Support traveled to Birmingham to meet with key partners supporting the city of Birmingham, Alabama with the 2022 World Games. These meetings are part of a series of state, local, tribal, and territorial stakeholder engagements CWMD is conducting across the United States to discuss chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and health security risks.
“Our partnerships with state and local public health organizations are critical to our efforts at CWMD to ensure state and local jurisdictions are prepared to detect and respond to biological attacks,” said Acting Assistant Secretary Rasicot.
While in Columbus, Acting Assistant Secretary Rasicot toured the Ohio Department of Health BioWatch Laboratory, where he met with the lab’s director, bureau chief, and members of the local BioWatch team. He also attended a meeting with members of the Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland BioWatch Advisory Committees. While in Ohio, the Acting Assistant Secretary received briefings on the status of the state’s BioWatch activities and discussed how CWMD can best support Ohio’s BioWatch programs.
“All disasters begin and end at the local level. It is great when we can come together to collaborate seamlessly. At times, it is difficult for local programs to work in partnership with federal agencies to come to joint decisions. These meetings are always great opportunities to share the perspectives and the unique challenges that occur at the local level,” said Tommy Doot, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the Cleveland Department of Public Health.
While in Birmingham Alabama, the ADAS met with members of the BioWatch Advisory Committee and visited CWMD’s BioWatch Rapidly Deployable Laboratory deployed to Birmingham to support the World Games event. She also visited the Emergency Operations Center and the All-Hazards Operations Center. CWMD has 28 staff deployed to support Birmingham with the 2022 World Games, which includes regional coordination staff, BioWatch staff, and staff from CWMD’s Mobile Detection Deployment Program (MDDP), as well as equipment from the Southeastern Mobile Detection Deployment Unit (MDDU). The MDDP enhances law enforcement and other first responders’ detection and interdiction capabilities.
BioWatch is an environmental biodetection program that provides warning of biological attacks or incidents with the goal of enabling a rapid response to save lives. CWMD is steadfast in its commitment to ensure its biodetection technology is modern and capable of detecting current and emerging threats. DHS/CWMD provides grants to public and/or private labs in various cities around the country that all contribute to the national effort to deter, detect, and, if necessary, respond, to acts of bioterrorism.
CWMD is responsible for DHS’s efforts to protect the homeland from threats of weapons of mass destruction. By supporting operational partners across federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial levels, CWMD coordinates DHS efforts to safeguard the United States against chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and health security threats.