Utilizing the Risk Reduction Effectiveness and Capabilities Assessment Program to emphasize emergency response capabilities from a food terrorism attack
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A predictive system was developed and tested in a series of exercises with the objective of evaluating the preparedness and effectiveness of multi-agency response to food terrorism attacks. A computerized simulation model, Risk Reduction Effectiveness and Capabilities Assessment Program (RRECAP) was developed to identify the key factors that influence the outcomes of an attack and quantify the relative reduction of such outcomes caused by each factor. The model was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The exercises showed that RRECAP was an inexpensive and effective way for agencies to identify and prioritize their advance preparation to effectively mitigate such attacks. RRECAP also demonstrated the relative utility and limitations of the ability of medical resources to handle large numbers of patients if the attack is not recognized and mitigated rapidly; and exercise results showed that proper advance preparation would reduce these deficiencies to adequately handle all affected patients. A study was conducted to estimate a total cost of illness due to a hypothetical foodborne attack where terrorists intentionally contaminate chicken nuggets with a lethal chemical. The study used the morbidity, hospitalization, and mortality data from RRECAP to estimate the cost of illness, applying the online Foodborne Illness Cost Calculator created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. The model showed a strikingly high cost ranging from $87 billion—if the head of the state agriculture issues a stop movement /stop sale and there is a public announcement intervention—to $349 billion if no interventions are invoked from this one attack. Mortality costs drive the total cost estimates. Direct medical cost estimates of the attack ranged from $538 million to $2 billion, from outpatient and physician office visits and indirect costs resulting from lost workdays, and premature mortality costs ranged from $86 billion to $346 billion. The findings from this study strongly support early intervention to reduce the economic burden from a foodborne terror attack. This provides justification to strengthen support for increased terrorism surveillance and public health preparedness by both government agencies and the private sector.