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Understanding Bioterrorism: Solutions for Facilities

bioterrorism, HVAC

This is Chris Matt, Associate Editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today’s tip is better understanding the threat of bioterrorism attacks.

Besides learning about the most common biological agents, managers also must understand the most likely mechanisms terrorists could use in an attack. Four methods are the most likely. Each will require a different response to protect building occupants. The response also will vary with the type of building and the type of HVAC systems serving that building.

The first type of incident involves an indirect attack. In this scenario, a large-scale release of a biological agent occurs outside a facility. If the facility is downwind from the release, a portion of the biological agent could enter the building through outdoor-air intakes for the HVAC system.

A second type of incident is the release of the biological agent directly into the HVAC system outdoor-air intakes. The biological agent enters the system and is distributed to areas of the building that system serves. How widely the agent is spread will depend on the system’s design and how much of the building the system serves.

A third possible scenario is similar to the second, only the agent is released within the building itself, directly into the return-air portion of the HVAC system. Again, the distribution of the agent depends on the design of the HVAC system.

The fourth scenario involves the release of a biological agent within a specific area, such as a conference room, lobby, or classroom. While much of the release would be confined to that space, the biological agent can spread readily through the building’s HVAC system or even as people move from one area in the building to another.


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