A pending House bill would finally spur the types of actions that should have been taken years ago in response to a warning about lack of personal protective equipment at DHS – for just the the sort of pandemic that occurred with the Coronavirus, argues a report accompanying the measure.
HR-3263, now ready for a House vote, would require DHS to “establish a medical countermeasures program to facilitate personnel readiness and protection for the department’s employees and working animals in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosives attack, naturally occurring disease outbreak, or pandemic, and to support Department mission continuity.”
It notes that after a 2014 IG report concluded that DHS had not “effectively managed pandemic personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures.” Concerns raised at the time “were realized” early last year when the stockpile of such equipment proved to be “completely inadequate to support a robust pandemic response,” the report on the bill says.
At DHS, where nearly nine-tenths of the 240,000-plus employees are in front-line positions, “some personnel used expired respirators and others even forwent or reused PPE while working the frontlines of the pandemic. Instances such as the COVID–19 PPE shortage highlight the importance of DHS establishing countermeasures to keep frontline personnel safe,” it says.
Among other steps, the bill would require DHS to conduct chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear risk assessments; issue and maintain consistent guidance; and put in place a logistics support plan.