A deliberate event is an act or threat involving the intentional release of hazardous substances to cause harm. Hazardous substances include chemicals, biological agents and radiological materials.
Deliberate events cover a wide spectrum of intent and public health impact. They can be on a small scale, for example, contaminating a few samples of a product to extort money from a retailer.
They can also be on a large scale, such as the deliberate release of biological, chemical or radio-nuclear material by terrorists to kill or injure humans or animals, contaminate food or destroy crops. Terrorists have used explosive, flammable and toxic chemicals in their deliberate attacks, often with transportation systems as their main target. Deliberate events can also be intentional infectious disease outbreaks within a community.
The development, production and use of biological and chemical weapons pose serious hazards on those who seek to use them, mainly defense and military, and on the entire civilian population. Their use or threatened use obliges governments both to seek to prevent such use and to prepare response plans, which can and should be developed as an integral part of existing national-emergency and public-health plans.
WHO focuses on the possible public health consequences of an incident, regardless of whether it is characterized as a deliberate act or a naturally occurring event.
When a Member State is concerned and wants to be prepared, WHO advises strengthening public health surveillance and response activities, with an emphasis on:
- more effective national surveillance of outbreaks of illness, including alert and response systems at all levels that can detect diseases that may be deliberately caused;
- better communication between multiple sectors, including public health, water supply, food safety, nuclear safety and poison-control;
- improved assessments of vulnerability, and effective communication about risks to both professionals and the public;
- preparation for handling the psychosocial consequences of the deliberate use of pathogens and chemicals to cause harm; and
- contingency plans for an enhanced response capacity by all sectors.