GAO urges more effort to gird US infrastructure for pandemic

first_img “While some discussion has occurred, there are opportunities to further address these issues through the increased federal and private sector use of the sector-specific and cross-sector coordinating councils,” the report states. Potentially confusing and conflicting messages from the many government agencies responsible for providing information on the pandemic issue Uncertainty about federal and state roles in areas such as state border closures and pandemic flu vaccine distribution Maintaining a focus on pandemic planning, given the unpredictable timing of a pandemic and the existence of more immediate problems, such as foodborne disease outbreaks The GAO reviewed preparedness efforts in the five sectors (other than public health and healthcare) that it deems most essential to maintaining society and the economy during a pandemic: transportation, food and agriculture, water, electric power, and telecommunications. A need for more funds for training and infrastructure and dealing with potential legal and regulatory issues Nov 2, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – The federal government should step up efforts to prepare the nation’s key infrastructure industries, such as energy and transportation, for an influenza pandemic, Congress’s investigative agency said in a report this week. In some cases the federal and private sectors are using the coordinating councils to cooperate on infrastructure protection, but those efforts so far focus mainly on hazards in general rather than a pandemic in particular, the report says. Yet some specific pandemic preparations are under way. For example, the Communications Sector Coordinating Council has set up a working group to address telecommuting issues. The coordinating councils are advisory groups set up by DHS to foster collaboration within and between government and the private sector to protect the nation’s “critical infrastructure.” A government coordinating council and a sector coordinating council were set up for each of 17 industrial sectors, ranging from information technology and telecommunications to water and electric power. The agency interviewed officials from the federal agencies responsible for infrastructure protection related to the five sectors and also reviewed infrastructure protection plans, regulations, and guidance. A letter from a DHS official, included in the report, says DHS concurs with the GAO recommendation. More than 85% of the nation’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector, the report notes. It says that public-private partnerships are vital to ensure that essential services will continue during a pandemic or other national emergency.center_img The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), released Oct 31, recommends that the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) take the lead in encouraging the “coordinating councils” for the infrastructure sectors to prepare for the challenges the sectors will face during a pandemic. Government and private-sector officials who were interviewed by the GAO reported a number of challenges they face in working together on pandemic preparedness: Sep 11 CIDRAP News story “GAO finds gaps in federal pandemic planning” DHS is in a good position to lead this endeavor, because it is responsible for coordinating infrastructure protection and is the lead agency for more than half of the critical industrial sectors, the GAO says. Accordingly, the agency recommends that the DHS secretary, working with other sector-specific agencies, “lead efforts to encourage the government and private sector members of the councils to consider and help address the challenges that will require coordination between the federal and private sectors involved with critical infrastructure and within the various sectors” before and during a pandemic. House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the GAO report confirmed his view that DHS should make better use of the infrastructure coordinating councils, according to a Nov 1 report by CQ Homeland Security, published by Congressional Quarterly Inc. See also: GAO report: Influenza pandemic: Opportunities exist to address critical infrastructure protection challenges that require federal and private sector coordinationhttp://www.gao.gov/new.items/d0836.pdf The federal government and private sector have already taken some steps to prepare the nation’s infrastructure for a pandemic, such as developing general preparedness guidance and determining the number of workers necessary to maintain operations, the GAO says. Developing strategies to address “the crucial cross-sector interdependencies” in the nation’s infrastructure, “such as the electricity and telecommunications capabilities that are necessary to support all the other sectors”last_img read more


Tennis: Williams keen to face Murray in ‘battle of the sexes’

first_imgSerena Williams said that she would be happy to take part in a battle-of-the-sexes showdown with Andy Murray after the Scot issued a playful challenge to the American by proposing a one-off match in Las Vegas.Responding to a suggestion made by a fan on Twitter, Murray said that he would seriously consider an exhibition match against the women’s world No 1.“I’d be up for it. Why not?” Murray said. “I’ve never hit with her, but she’s obviously an incredible player and I think people would be interested to see the men play against the women to see how the styles match up. It’s happened in the past with Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova. How about Las Vegas as a venue?”Connors defeated Navratilova in Las Vegas in 1992 in a revival of a two-match challenge 19 years earlier when former men’s world No 1 Bobby Riggs, then aged 55, took on Margaret Court and Billie Jean King. He beat Court, but famously lost in straight sets to King in Houston in a match that grabbed the world’s attention.Williams has her own experience of playing against a male opponent – losing 6-1 to German journeyman Karsten Braasch in a one-set challenge when she was 16 at the Australian Open in 1988.Now 31 and arguably in the best form of her life, Williams believes she would be an entirely different proposition. “I was really young. I’m a lot more experienced now,” she said. Asked whether she was ready to take up Murray’s offer, Williams said: “That would be fun. I doubt I’d win a point, but that would be fun.”Judging by Williams’s progress this week, it could well take the men’s world No 2 to end her winning streak, which she extended to 33 successive matches with a 6-3 6-2 second-round victory against French teenager Caroline Garcia.“I wouldn’t want to play me at 21 or 31,” said the 31-year-old top seed, who is looking to draw level with Roger Federer’s haul of 17 grand slam titles.Her next opponent will be Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm, at 42 the oldest player in this year’s Wimbledon draw.Williams insisted that she would not be underestimating the veteran Japanese player after watching her sister Venus struggle to beat her in a three-hour epic two years ago that was dubbed the ‘Zimmer Frame Thriller’ because both players boasted a combined age of 71last_img read more