Tag Archives: department of homeland security

Dept. of Homeland Security Warns of Impending Zombie Apocalypse

If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s the zombie apocalypse. I don’t know why, really. Although some people think that it would be cool to blow the heads off the undead and attempt to survive in a brutal post-apocalyptic landscape, most people would get their fat asses either gnawed on by zombies or shot by a survivalist looking for supplies. The harsh reality is that most people wouldn’t survive the zombie apocalypse, but we can keep dreaming that we’re the exception – we’re all Rick from The Walking Dead.

This month is National Preparedness Month, and the Department of Homeland Security is capitalizing on the never-ending zombie craze to make people start thinking about what they would do in the event of a disaster.

According to the AP, DHS is urging citizens to prepare for the zombie apocalypse. “The Zombies are coming!” they say.

Except they’re not. At least not right now. DHS’s message is that if you’re prepared for a zombie attack, you’ll likely be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack. That’s because all of those events have something in common – the need for shelter, food, water, etc. DHS wants emergency planners across the country to use the “zombie attack” trope to get people into the disaster preparedness mindset.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that a government organization has mentioned the z word to citizens. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control actually acknowledged zombies and released their own zombie preparedness guide.

Here’s what the CDC says would happen, on a governmental response level:

If zombies did start roaming the streets, CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak. CDC would provide technical assistance to cities, states, or international partners dealing with a zombie infestation. This assistance might include consultation, lab testing and analysis, patient management and care, tracking of contacts, and infection control (including isolation and quarantine).

It’s likely that an investigation of this scenario would seek to accomplish several goals: determine the cause of the illness, the source of the infection/virus/toxin, learn how it is transmitted and how readily it is spread, how to break the cycle of transmission and thus prevent further cases, and how patients can best be treated. Not only would scientists be working to identify the cause and cure of the zombie outbreak, but CDC and other federal agencies would send medical teams and first responders to help those in affected areas (I will be volunteering the young nameless disease detectives for the field work).

Even though the CDC clearly has a plan, they officially denied the known existence of zombies after a rash of cannibalism stories hit the news earlier this year.

If you have the money and truly wish to prepare for the zombie apocalypse, you can’t go wrong with this kit for the 1%.

GERM OUTBREAK AT CDC – Security lapses found at CDC bioterror lab in Atlanta

A federal bioterror laboratory already under investigation by Congress for safety issues has had repeated incidents of security doors left unlocked to an area where experiments occur with dangerous germs, according to internal agency e-mails obtained by USA TODAY. In one incident, an unauthorized employee was discovered inside a restricted area.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman says the unsecured door incidents in 2010 and 2009 inside its Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory in Atlanta were “not an acceptable practice of the agency.” At no time, though, were bioterror organisms such as anthrax at risk of falling into the wrong hands, he said.

“The doors in question here are but one layer of multiple layers of security when it comes to both the animals and the agents that are worked on,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said. “The security measures we have in place, without going into detail, make it close to impossible for anyone who doesn’t have approved access to the agents to get their hands on them.”

The e-mails document doors being left unlocked in the building’s high-containment lab block, which includes an animal-holding area and Biosafety Level 3 labs where experiments are done on microbes that can cause serious or potentially fatal diseases and can be spread through the air. Anthrax, monkeypox, dangerous strains of influenza and the SARS virus are examples.

One e-mail by a CDC safety manager describes an unauthorized man discovered in the animal-holding area and multiple doors that were unsecured at the time. Skinner says the man was a CDC scientist but was not immediately able to provide further details about why he was in the restricted area. Skinner said the man was in an outer corridor of the BSL-3 suite of labs.

For safety and security, access to BSL-3 labs is restricted and they are supposed to have special airflow systems designed to help keep organisms inside. Problems with the airflow systems revealed by USA TODAY, including a February incident where air briefly blew out of a lab into a “clean” hallway, prompted the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week to launch a bipartisan investigation into safety issues. The committee is examining whether CDC — which inspects its own labs along with others nationwide that handle bioterror agents — is complying with federal safety requirements at the lab building, also known as CDC Building 18.

E-mails written by CDC Safety and Occupational Health manager Patrick Stockton indicate the lab has had security lapses that Rutgers University biosafety expert Richard Ebright said may be a “major violation” of security standards for labs that work with potential bioterror agents.

In a November 2009 e-mail, Stockton wrote to several CDC officials involved with Building 18’s high-containment laboratory area: “We are continuing to have some difficulties with doors remaining unsecured in the (high-containment lab) area. … If we continue to have issues, we will need to begin looking at individual access rights for these doors.” The particular issue involved expansion sections of the doors, used to accommodate large pieces of equipment. The “through-bolts are not being re-engaged, and the doors are remaining unsecured,” Stockton wrote.

Five months later, the expansion doors continued to be left unlatched and unsecured. According to an April 29, 2010, e-mail to more than a dozen CDC officials involved with the lab building, Stockton wrote that earlier that day “an individual with no access and no escort” was found in the research animal-holding area of the high-containment lab area.

The e-mail continued: “He did not have access and at this point we are not sure how he got there.” Stockton wrote that he talked to program and animal staff and “no one from their programs let this person in.” CDC’s Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness, which is a liaison to the Department of Homeland Security, was investigating, the e-mail said. Homeland Security officials did not respond to questions about the CDC security incidents.

Stockton’s e-mail says that after the incident he and the building’s high-containment lab manager, Anthony Sanchez, walked the entire high-containment block and found two doors unsecured. “This can certainly happen by mistake on occasion but we have addressed this issue in the past and now it seems to be a common failure point. … It is imperative that all doors leading to high containment remain secured,” Stockton wrote.

Stockton and Sanchez didn’t grant interviews. CDC spokesman Skinner said: “Doors being left open by staff is not a standard practice. It’s unacceptable, and our safety office has sent out numerous reminders to staff of the importance of staff practicing good physical security.”

Skinner said he is unaware of any other door security incidents after the one in April 2010. He emphasized that multiple layers of security in the building would have prevented any unauthorized person from accessing germs that hold the potential to be used as bioterror weapons. “The bottom line is, worker safety and the public safety were never compromised,” he said.

Ebright, of Rutgers University, expressed concern about the repeated issues revealed in news reports about Building 18 since the $214 million building opened in 2005, including articles in 2007 about backup generators that failed to keep airflow systems working during a power outage, and in 2008 about a high-containment lab door that the CDC sealed with duct tape after an incident where an airflow system malfunctioned and sent potentially contaminated air into a “clean” corridor.

The “documents you have obtained over the past several years make it clear that there has been a pattern of corner-cutting and negligence at CDC biocontainment facilities —starting with the failure to include provisions for emergency backup power, and encompassing inadequate door seals, improper airflow, jury-rigged repairs, and unsecured access points,” Ebright said.

If the security issues described in Stockton’s 2010 e-mail continue and bioterror agents are being used in that area, Ebright said, “then heads should fall.”

The CDC currently is responsible for inspecting the safety and security of its labs that work with bioterror agents. Skinner said CDC has a 66-year record of operating its labs safely.

The CDC said this week, in the wake of USA TODAY’s reports, that it is considering having its labs’ safety reviewed by an outside agency, such as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

Biosafety and biosecurity concerns have been the subject of previous congressional concerns. A 2009 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, examined the potential risks posed by the growing number of high-containment labs doing research on potential bioterror agents. It found that while lab accidents are rare, they do occur, primarily because of human error and systems failures.

It also noted that insiders working in the labs can pose risks, pointing to the Federal Bureau of Investigation‘s allegation that Bruce Ivins, a scientist at USAMRIID in Fort Detrick, Md., was the “sole culprit” in the 2001 anthrax attacks. While he was under investigation in 2008, Ivins died of a drug overdose.

“There are arguably two aspects to insider risk: the motive of the insider and the ability to misuse material and laboratory facilities,” the GAO wrote in its report.


Lowpel Davis, a Connecticut woman who was arrested for allegedly stealing a wig from a beauty supply store, was the latest person to be linked to the “Zombie Apocalypse” after she reportedly bit off a chunk of the store owner’s bicep.

Davis, 38, allegedly attempted to steal a $15 wig from the New Haven store when owner Jongyol Lee and his 70-year-old father attempted to stop her. However, Davis managed to fight off Lee, his elderly father and workers in the store before biting off a piece of his arm and spitting it in his face.

It took four members of the Federal Protective Service, a department of homeland security law enforcement agency, along with additional New Haven police officials to restrain Davis who fought with the authorities. David Hartman, New Haven police spokesperson, described the incident as “struggling with a crazed woman,” in a Connecticut Post report.

Davis reportedly attempted to bite the officers and tried to kick the windows out of the police car she was riding in. Eventually, she was transferred to a windowless transportation van.

The store owner described the alleged assault that took place at the hands of Davis on Wednesday.

“She started swinging at me and she hit me on the right side of my face and knocked my glasses off,” Lee told WTNH-TV. “When somebody is caught stealing like that usually they are shamed publicly, they drop it and leave. But in this case she continued on her way.”

The officers who contained Davis were taken to the hospital to treat their bites and evaluate other injuries, while Lee was treated for the bite wound in his arm and injuries to his face at Yale-New Haven Hospital. The assailant was charged with sixth-degree larceny, second-degree breach of peace, first-degree criminal mischief, second-degree assault and two counts of assault for attacking the police officials who tried to restrain her.

When arriving in court to hear that her bond was set at $150,000, Davis was reportedly calm and did not know the extent of her actions, the Post reported. Davis is due back in court on July 11.

For the past few weeks, an increased number of zombie-like behavior has taken place across the country. Last month, a Miami man was shot dead by police after he was seen naked, growling and consuming the flesh of a homeless man’s face.

Less than one week after the incident in Miami took place, a New Jersey man reportedly stabbed himself 50 times before throwing his flesh and intestines at police officers. Days later, a Maryland man told authorities that he had eaten the heart and brain of his roommates.

While other incidents made headlines in Louisiana and Miami once again, the CDC spoke out about the reported “Zombie Apocalypse” that had become a trending topic on the Internet.

“The CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms),” CDC spokesman David Daigle told The Huffington Post.

While many of the incidents caused some to speculate about the involvement of a new street drug called “bath salts,” the cause of Davis’ outburst in Connecticut had yet to be determined.