Fortunately, most of us living in Britain will not have to face the devastation caused by natural disasters; we are not prone to extreme weather conditions and our geographical location means that the threat of volcanoes erupting or earthquakes and tsunamis hitting us is minimal.
Although the UK is not commonly associated with disasters, since 9/11 and subsequent terror attacks in London, chemical warfare and terrorism have become very real threats and this is a subject that crops up in the media on an almost daily basis.
The articles below will outline some of the most common disasters in the UK and some of the policies that affect the way we prepare for and deal with the consequences of emergency situations.
Biodefence and bioterrorism
Terrorism is a constant threat in this day and age; since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the subsequent terrorist attacks in London, terrorism is undoubtedly one of the most talked about subjects in modern society.
Bioterrorism is the use of biological substances and organisms to cause widespread illness and even death; examples of threats of bioterrorism include substances such as anthrax and toxins, bacteria and viruses including Ebola and smallpox. Bioterrorism is often very difficult to detect because many of the substances that are used are odourless and colourless and often the onset of symptoms associated with biological agents is delayed.
Bioterrorism is a very modern form of terrorism; people now have more knowledge about chemicals and distribution of diseases thanks to access to resources on the internet; it is feasible that one person could cause a huge number of deaths and widespread chaos.
Biodefence: tackling and preventing bioterrorism
Security agencies and police forces have stepped up security and are now constantly monitoring terrorist activity across the world; security is particularly high in the UK and the USA due to the high risk of Al Qaeda attacks. Generally, the public are unaware of these operations and are only alerted if there is a very real threat; of course, some activities are not detected and this can lead to surprise attacks. In order to reduce the risk of bioterrorism new security measures have been brought in; one of the most obvious measures is the changes in airline hand luggage. Passengers are no longer allowed to take liquids through customs and all toiletries and cosmetics much be contained in a see through plastic bag; larger bottles are not allowed. In addition, scanning equipment at airports is now more sophisticated.
Biodefence is a multi-faceted approach, which involves rigorous security monitoring, as well as methods to prepare people in the event of a biological attack; this includes stock-piling antibiotics and injections to tackle the effects of agents such as anthrax and ensuring people have food and water supplies and medical kits at home.