In 2002, the federal government created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to strengthen our nation's security against acts of bioterrorism. Since its inception, the DHS has spent over $48 billion on a number of projects to keep citizens safe. One key component that the DHS has invested in is named BioWatch, a deployed system consisting of sensors placed in 30 undisclosed cities to detect airborne pathogens like anthrax, plague, and smallpox.

Some researchers are questioning the effectiveness of BioWatch. Theoretically, the sensors will detect threats and set off early-warning systems in DHS to ensure the earliest possible detection and deployment of personnel during a biological attack. However, a threat may take as long as 34 hours to detect since air samples are manually collected and physically taken to labs for analysis. A number of experts believe that a real-time detection system will not be developed for quite some time. Senior scientist at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Margaret Hamburg, stated that 9/11 led to a lot of wishful thinking that new technologies might be the answer. There were a lot of investments made-some that made sense, some that didn't.

Based upon the recent findings, it appears like the federal government is not as prepared as most would expect after six years. Since the DHS is behind on establishing BioWatch, regular citizens should take steps to protect themselves in the event of a bioterrorist attack. Some might feel that they can rely on emergency personnel to help them during an incident, but there is currently a ratio of 1 responder for every 1000 civilians.

Sector 10, Inc. has a number of tools that will help everyday people protect themselves during biological attacks. As part of its pre-deployed life-saving equipment packages, the company has developed special smoke hoods that keep the user safe from inhaling smoke, chemical, or biological fumes. A filter design along with a positive pressure device keeps smoke particulates and toxic gases from entering the hood. The device provides the user with 30 to 45 minutes of breathable air along with an unlimited field of vision which should enable the user to navigate in a smoke- or gas-filled room to a safer environment.

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