Feb. 10, 2006
Volume 17, No. 3
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In times of disaster, whether natural or manmade, communication is key. In the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it became clear that emergency response organizations, hospitals, and health agencies currently do not have efficient and clear means of communicating critical information among themselves or to the general public. UPMC is going to change that.
At a press conference on Jan. 26, Jeffrey Romoff, president, UPMC, announced that the health system received $8.5 million through the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, of which Representative John Murtha is a ranking member, to build the Strategic Biodefense Emergency Operations and Communications System (SBS).
The SBS will make Pittsburgh a model for the rest of the nation on how to efficiently connect and provide up-to-the-minute information to health care providers, the National Guard, and local governments in the event of large-scale bioterrorist attacks, pandemics, or other major emergencies that could result in serious public health consequences.
"The unprecedented biodefense system will place western Pennsylvania’s bioterrorism preparedness initiatives among the top tier in the United States. It will solve a national problem by providing a template to efficiently organize disaster responses so that medical resources are directed where they are most needed,” said Mr. Romoff.
"This system will combine UPMC’s commitment and ability to provide top quality health care and information technology in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region with the substantial public health and emergency resources of the city and region. The result will be organizations with the ability to make decisions, communicate, and take coordinated actions across a region during a crisis,” said Tara O’Toole, MD, chief executive officer, UPMC Center for Biosecurity.
The SBS also will include a vital public information component to share critical information with the citizens of the region. The biodefense Web portal element will provide the public with a user-friendly website that will contain critical information for coping with a disaster and its aftermath. Personal and business disaster preparedness information also will be available through this portal.
Training first responders
"This project will develop a much-needed model for a comprehensive disaster-response system that can be used in cities across the nation, and will showcase this region as the center for a complex effort that requires innovative thinking, the incorporation of technology, and the spirit of cooperation,” said Rep. Murtha.