BJA Helps Justice System Prepare for Flu
The recent spread of swine influenza has raised public awareness of epidemics and pandemics, and many people have begun to ask if we are adequately prepared to manage a pandemic flu to minimize the loss of life. At the federal level, that management is already underway. On April 26, 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a nationwide Public Health Emergency declaration in response to human infections of the H1N1 swine influenza A virus. This formal declaration facilitates HHS preparation and mobilization for disasters and emergencies. It also prompted state and local jurisdictions to begin implementing their own pandemic response plans, many of which were revised substantially or created in the wake of the 2006 avian flu outbreak and the SARS epidemic.
Responding to a pandemic may seem to be the responsibility of public health organizations, but the reality is that in a pandemic, especially if isolation and quarantine orders are put into effect to slow or limit transmission, the criminal justice system will be profoundly affected. Consequently, law enforcement personnel need to understand what pandemic flu is, how it affects their daily operations, and implement comprehensive, coordinated, community level plans for continuing operations, maintaining public safety, and managing public fear during an outbreak.
To this end, the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, has sponsored a large body work aimed at helping the justice system prepare for pandemic influenza, all of which is available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/pandemic/resources.html. The site contains information for public safety agencies, courts, community, and institutional corrections and includes audio and video presentations and a number of publications.
Other federal resources concerning swine flu, as well as other pandemic threats, can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov, a HHS-sponsored clearinghouse designed as a one-stop source for U.S. Government swine, avian, and pandemic flu information. The site contains up-to-the-minute information and outbreak tracking from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, as well as extensive news reports, resources, fact sheets, and planning checklists related to the flu.