Skip Navigation

Our meetings provide a national forum for leaders in the field to explore and discuss priorities, challenges, and policy implications in health security.

Leadership Guide

The Public As an Asset, Not a Problem
A Summit on Leadership during Bioterrorism


On February 3-4, 2003, the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies [now the Center for Biosecurity of UPMC] convened a summit on engaging "the public" in bioterrorism planning and response. The purpose of this event was to synthesize for government and public health authorities the essential principles of leadership, based on frontline experiences with recent terrorism events and other relevant crises, that encourage the public's constructive collaboration in confronting a bioterrorist attack.

More than 160 people attended representing senior operational decision-makers in public health and safety-including the bioterrorism coordinators from 35 state and local health agencies-as well as thought leaders and policy makers in medicine, public health, nursing, hospital administration, disaster relief, and national security.

Key issues included the following:

  • Moving beyond the prevailing image of a panic-prone public
  • Mobilizing a coordinated, collective response among diverse publics
  • Capitalizing on everyday institutions (e.g., schools, workplaces) to help people cope
  • Learning from leadership challenges during recent terrorizing events

Suggested reading list:

  • Barbera J, Macintyre A, Gostin L, et al. Large-scale quarantine following biological terrorism in the United States: scientific examination, logistic and legal limits, and possible consequences. JAMA. Dec 5, 2001; 286(21): Critically examines the feasibility, efficacy and social acceptability of large-scale quarantine as a measure to control the spread of contagious disease.

  • Covello VT, Peters RG, Wojtecki JG et al. Risk communication, the West Nile virus epidemic and bioterrorism. Journal of Urban Health. June, 2001; 78(2). Reviews risk communication perspectives and models in light of the case of the New York City outbreak of West Nile virus and an hypothesized biological attack.

  • Glass T & Schoch-Spana M. Bioterrorism and the people: how to vaccinate a city against panic. Clinical Infectious Diseases. Jan 15, 2002; 34(2): Outlines guidelines for integrating the public into bioterrorism response planning.

  • Hall MJ, Norwood AE, Ursano RJ et al. Psychological and behavioral impacts of bioterrorism. PTSD Research Quarterly. Fall, 2002;13(4): Review article on psychological consequences of bioterrorism that provides selected abstracts from relevant literature.

  • Inglesby TV, Grossman R & O'Toole T. A plague on your city: observations from TOPOFF. Clinical Infectious Diseases. Feb 1, 2001; (32): Conveys lessons learned from exercise with top government officials to test nation's ability to react to multiple terrorist attacks. Problems related to bioterrorism response included distribution of scare resources, contagious disease within health care facilities, and need for sound disease containment principles.

  • O'Toole T, Mair M, & Inglesby TV. Shining light on Dark Winter. Clinical Infectious Diseases. Apr 1, 2002; 34(7): Offers lessons learned from Dark Winter, a tabletop exercise in which former senior-level government officials simulated National Security Council meetings in reaction to a mock smallpox attack.

  • Schoch-Spana M. Implications of pandemic influenza for bioterrorism response. Clinical Infectious Diseases. Dec 2000; 31(6). Draws upon the 1918 influenza pandemic case to inform public health planning for bioterrorism response; discusses issues of public confidence in epidemic containment measures, fair allocation of resources, and protection against discrimination.

Conference Sponsors

This conference was supported under award #2000-DT-CX-K002 from the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) and the Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, and award number 2000-10-7 from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Points of view expressed during the course of this meeting are those of the individual speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position of MIPT, the US Department of Justice, or The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.