Wednesday, February 27, 2008

BIO5 researcher identifies cities at risk to bioterrorism

[Source: Deborah Daun, BIO5] - A University of Arizona researcher has created a new system to dramatically show American cities their relative level of vulnerability to bioterrorism.

Walter W. Piegorsch, PhD, an expert on environmental risk, has placed 132 major cities – on a list from Albany, N.Y., to Youngstown, Ohio -- on a color-coded map that identifies their level of risk based on factors like critical industries, ports, railroads, population, natural environment and other factors.

Piegorsch is the director of a new UA graduate program in interdisciplinary statistics and a professor of mathematics in the College of Science, as well as a member of the UA’s BIO5 Institute.

The map marks high risk areas as red (for example, Houston or, surprisingly, Boise, Idaho), midrange risk as yellow (San Francisco) and lower risk as green (Tucson). The map shows a wide swath of highest-risk urban areas running from New York down through the Southeast and into Texas. That swath includes all of the high risk urban areas in the United States except for Boise.

The model employs what risk experts call a benchmark vulnerability metric, which shows risk managers each city’s level of risk for urban terrorism.

Piegorsch says terrorism vulnerability involves three dimensions of risk -- social aspects, natural hazards and how the city and its infrastructure have been constructed.

He concludes that the allocation of funds for preparedness and response to terrorism should take into account these factors of risk and underlying vulnerability.

“Our capacity to adequately prepare for and respond to these vulnerabilities varies widely across the country, especially in urban areas,” he writes. He argues that “any one-size-fits–all strategy” of resource allocation and training ignores the reality of the geographic differences identified in his study. Such failures, he says, would “limit urban areas’ abilities to prepare for and respond to terrorist events.”

The research was published in the December 2007 issue of Risk Analysis, a journal published by the Society for Risk Analysis. It was funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Piegorsch was the lead author in collaboration with Susan L. Cutter, PhD, director, Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute, and Carolina Distinguished Professor of Geography, University of South Carolina; and Frank Hardisty, PhD, Research Faculty, GeoVISTA Center, Pennsylvania State University.

To access the journal article, go to:

No comments: