Agricultural Terrorism and the EMR Sector
Considering the possibility and consequences of a terrorist attack on the Agriculture and Food Sector of the United States, the Emergency Management and Response-Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC), the source of this INFOGRAM document, examined the relationship between agricultural terrorism and the Emergency Management and Response (EMR) Sector. The findings are briefly summarized in the following paragraphs.
According to the National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets, the Agriculture and Food Sector consists of the supply chains for seed, fertilizer, feed, animals, animal products, and other related materials. It also includes the post-harvesting components of the food supply chain, from processing, production, and packaging through storage and distribution to retail sales, institutional food services, and restaurant or home consumption. Because of the increased susceptibility of livestock to disease, a general lack of farm and food related security, a passive reporting system, etc., several critical infrastructure protection (CIP) specialists believe that the Agriculture and Food Sector is vulnerable to intentional and accidental disruption of operations and services.
CIP specialists postulate that the impact of an attack on the Agriculture and Food Sector would be significant and easily extend to other sectors of the nation including the EMR Sector. The EMR-ISAC agrees that the EMR Sector will be affected because in most states the overall responsibility for response preparedness rests primarily with an emergency management agency followed by the public health department. Furthermore, besides the medical and veterinary communities, other stakeholders such as fire and rescue organizations will be necessarily engaged in preparedness planning and actual response operations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that preparedness activities for agriculture and food terrorist incidents need to be integrated within existing emergency response plans and systems, and tested in exercises involving all agencies responsible to respond. Therefore, the EMR-ISAC suggests that emergency managers and responders in those states and localities containing agricultural and food industries accept the possibility of contamination and consider the following basic preparedness actions:
- Initiate contact with the state agricultural service and the resident agricultural and food industries.
- Ascertain and support state reporting and response requirements for agriculture and food contamination incidents.
- Commence coordination among those organizations responsible to report and respond.
- Identify and eliminate gaps in existing plans and systems of responsible agencies.
- Prepare or revise emergency response plans to ensure relevant agencies can quickly and effectively communicate and respond to an incident.
- Test the effectiveness of the response plans and systems using simulated exercises or case studies.
A growing number of government and security officials admit that we may never be able to know with certainty when, where, and how terrorists will attack the critical infrastructures of the United States. Many of these individuals confide that there is no truly effective way to protect the thousands of components that comprise national critical infrastructures. They maintain that American technology, tools, and methodologies are only partially useful in addressing our numerous domestic vulnerabilities.