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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 12, 2005 | Vol. 35 No. 14
JHU to lead Homeland Security center

Secretary Michael Chertoff announces Homeland Security's selection of Johns Hopkins to a crowd gathered in Hurd Hall on the East Baltimore campus.

National consortium will address preparation for, response to U.S. disasters

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff came to Baltimore today, Dec. 5, to announce the selection of The Johns Hopkins University to lead a national consortium that will investigate how the nation can best prepare for and respond to large-scale incidents and disasters.

The Center for the Study of High Consequence Event Preparedness and Response, the fifth national DHS Center of Excellence, will receive $15 million in federal funding over the next three years to research deterrence, prevention, preparedness and response to both man-made and natural disasters, including hurricanes and terrorist attacks. It will begin its work immediately.

The announcement was held at The Johns Hopkins Hospital's Hurd Hall and began with an address by university President William R. Brody and remarks from Charles McQuery, undersecretary for science and technology at the DHS. Also in attendance were Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and various other local government and Johns Hopkins officials.

The new center will explore such issues as critical decision making, integration of regional resources and health systems, surge capacity in medical facilities and the development of sensor networks to provide early warning alerts. In particular, it will study interaction of people and organizations and the need to use models and simulations.

"There is no more important issue for the department than planning for and responding to potentially catastrophic events," Chertoff said. "As we learned with Katrina and Rita, and as we see in the ongoing threat of avian flu, high-consequence events — whether man-made or natural — pose an enormous risk in terms of loss of life and potential economic damage and disruption. Planning for these kinds of events is a top priority for DHS, and the new Center of Excellence at Johns Hopkins will be an important resource for understanding many of the issues tied to effective catastrophic emergency preparedness and response."

In addition, one of the center's key goals will be to educate the next generation's leaders in science, policy and public service in and related to the field of critical event preparedness and response.

Brody said that Johns Hopkins has a long history of serving the nation's defense, noting in particular the work conducted at the Applied Physics Laboratory, which came into being during World War II to assist the Allied effort.

"We are optimistic that this unique consortium, which includes researchers and scientists from 28 entities across eight states, will foster interdisciplinary and collaborative responses to some of the greatest challenges facing America," Brody said.

The center will fall under the auspices of Johns Hopkins' Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, known as CEPAR, which began its work in 2002 and has positioned the university as a national leader in this field. CEPAR serves as the command center and clearinghouse for enterprisewide planning and response to critical events.

Nursing Dean Martha Hill and Gabe Kelen and Lynn Goldman, co-directors of the Homeland Security center at JHU, applaud remarks announcing its establishment.

Lynn Goldman, professor of environmental health sciences at the School of Public Health and senior research fellow at CEPAR, will co-direct the new center with Gabe Kelen, director of CEPAR and chair of Emergency Medicine in the School of Medicine.

The multidisciplinary center, to be based at the university's Mt. Washington campus, will involve more than 90 investigators from a national consortium of 20 universities, nongovermental organizations and federal agencies. The group of experts from Johns Hopkins includes faculty and staff from the Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins Health System, School of Advanced International Studies, School of Professional Studies in Business and Education and schools of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Medicine and Public Health. Major partners outside the university are the Florida State Universities Consortium on Homeland Security, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Morgan State University, the University of Buffalo, the American Red Cross, the Brookings Institution and the CBRTA (Chemical, Biological and Radiological Technology Alliance), a partner in the National Technology Alliance.

In January 2005, Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate released an announcement calling for proposals focusing on research and education and relevant to the study of high-consequence event preparedness and response. Thirty-four proposals were received and reviewed by a team of 38 peer reviewers from academia, the private sector and multiple government agencies as part of a three-tier review process based on the evaluation of scientific and technical merit, mission relevance and management effectiveness. The process resulted in site visits to four different institutions and the subsequent selection of JHU.

"We are absolutely thrilled to have been selected. An extraordinary amount of work and effort went into this application," Goldman said. "This is important work, and it's a privilege to truly help the country."

Kelen said that during the next year the center intends to establish the "scientific underpinnings" of its work and begin to initiate plans for specific projects. The center will initially focus, he said, on four major project areas: protocols for risk assessment and mitigation, communication efforts, simulations and policy.

Specifically, the center might look into simulations of global pandemics through the use of high-output computers, the engineering of radiation sensor platforms and how best to harness informal networks of entities during a disaster, such as the churches that came together to aid Hurricane Katrina victims.

The other Homeland Security Centers of Excellence already operational are the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, led by the University of Southern California; the Homeland Security National Center for Food Protection and Defense, led by the University of Minnesota; the Homeland Security National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense, led by Texas A&M University; and the Homeland Security Center for Behavioral and Social Research on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism, led by the University of Maryland. A separate but closely associated entity is the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment, or CAMRA, a cooperative center jointly sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and led by Michigan State University.


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