Chaff Launch

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: In the Globalized World, One Would Think the CDC and U.S. Hospitals Should Be More Ready for Bioterrorism and Pandemics

So, during our 250th Midrats show, I ranted about the lack of a proactive response in the U.S. to the Ebola eruption in West Africa (you can listen here or on iTunes here - starting at about the 1:20 point).

The CDC, at its website, offers up advice on pandemic flu - another viral infection that ought to also offer up guidance for things like Ebola.
An influenza pandemic can occur when a non-human (novel) influenza virus gains the ability for efficient and sustained human-to-human transmission and then spreads globally. Influenza viruses that have the potential to cause a pandemic are referred to as ‘influenza viruses with pandemic potential.’***
So, the CDC is well aware that viruses can become global issues quickly. So, what is it that prevented a proactive response from the CDC that would call for real screenings (as opposed to a questionnaire asking about symptoms) of people arriving in the U.S. from areas already impacted by Ebola or other viruses?

Well, the answer is, now, apparently nothing - because the CDC has now announced that a 21-Day Monitoring for All Coming From Ebola Nations:
U.S. health officials are significantly expanding the breath of vigilance for Ebola, saying that all travelers who come into America from Ebola-stricken West African nations will now be monitored for symptoms of illness for 21 days.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the program will begin Monday and cover visitors as well as aid workers, journalists and other Americans returning from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea.

The program will start in six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia.

CDC Director Tom Frieden says state and local health officials will check daily for fever or other Ebola symptoms.

Passengers will get kits to help them track their temperature and will be told to inform health officials daily of their status.
However, this is still dumb - why not let those traveler be monitored before they enter U.S. territory? Why let them in and allow them to possibly spread the virus around the U.S.?

Just think of the cost of the flailing about that the single deceased Ebola victim has caused through his misrepresentation of his status. No, the thing to do is to set up overseas quarantine facilities and allow those who seek from stricken areas to travel to the U.S. sit and wait until cleared. Or even set up blood testing facilities for such would be travelers. See here for info on blood testing for Ebola

I suspect most reasonable epidemiologists would suggest "isolating" persons with known or likely exposure to disease in situ instead of suggesting they be allowed to board airplanes and ships and wander the world. It's not like the CDC isn't aware of the point of quarantine:
Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.

- Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
- Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

Twenty U.S. Quarantine Stations, located at ports of entry and land border crossings, use these public health practices as part of a comprehensive Quarantine System that serves to limit the introduction of infectious diseases into the United States and to prevent their spread.
Interesting summary of the issues of isolation and quarantine in this study, the summary of which is:
The isolation and treatment of symptomatic individuals, coupled with the quarantining of individuals that have a high risk of having been infected, constitute two commonly used epidemic control measures. Although isolation is probably always a desirable public health measure, quarantine is more controversial. Mass quarantine can inflict significant social, psychological, and economic costs without resulting in the detection of many infected individuals. The authors use probabilistic models to determine the conditions under which quarantine is expected to be useful. Results demonstrate that the number of infections averted (per initially infected individual) through the use of quarantine is expected to be very low provided that isolation is effective, but it increases abruptly and at an accelerating rate as the effectiveness of isolation diminishes. When isolation is ineffective, the use of quarantine will be most beneficial when there is significant asymptomatic transmission and if the asymptomatic period is neither very long nor very short.
We know some groups have been quarantined, why not more?

Don't set aside too quickly the "significant social, psychological, and economic costs" imposed on a society with potentially infected people being allowed to enter so that they can do "self monitoring" - and then ask who is paying the freight for any special care "possible" cases involve?

Why are we being asked to carry the cost of this when there are certainly cheaper alternatives to "let them in and hope for the best?"

And, yes, I am well aware that the odds of an Ebola epidemic in the U.S. is pretty slim. The disease is not that readily transferable if safety precautions are followed. However, we need to use Ebola as a warning for serious diseases that may crop up. We can't afford to be be in a purely reactive mode.

All of this concerning a non-intentional introduction of a disease on our shores really ought to make you wonder how well we would handle an intentional act of bio-terrorism?

There is this CDC website on Preparation and Planning for Bioterrorism Emergencies which includes a link to a 1999 document "Bioterrorism Readiness Plan: A Template for Healthcare Facilities":

I wonder if anything has changed since 1999?

We need a more proactive system.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sweden Versus Suspected But Unknown Submarine

It's a story too good for a retired Surface Warfare/Inshore Undersea Warfare guy to resist - the Swedes once again looking for a suspected submarine in their waters as Russia denies involvement with what may be the classic "who us?" quote of this undersea adventure:
“On Sunday the Russian Defense Ministry provided whatever aid it could to the Swedes in their futile search,” a Russian Ministry of Defense source told the state controlled Russia Today on Monday. (Hat tip to Sam LaGrone at USNI News)
And the Russians know this is a"futile search" how?

Well, if it was their boat and it has escaped from Swedish waters then they know where it isn't - meaning that it's not there for the Swedes to find.

Because if it is -say- a Bolivian submarine operating for some odd reason in the Baltic and in Swedish waters, then the search being conducted by the Swedes might not be so . . . futile, right?

Salamander has thoughts on, among other things, anti-submarine warfare readiness here.

What is the ASW package on those cool looking Visby corvettes?

Small Russian subs? How about Project 1910, Kashalot (picture above)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Long-Endurance Electric Unmanned Aircraft and the Potential for Other Things

USNRL photo
The engineers and scientists at the Navy Research Laboratory have successfully tested a long-endurance unmanned aircraft using a special tank of liquid hydrogen to feed fuel cells. Read more at "NRL Shatters Endurance Record for Small Electric UAV::
Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) flew their fuel cell powered Ion Tiger UAV for 48 hours and 1 minute on April 16-18 by using liquid hydrogen fuel in a new, NRL-developed, cryogenic fuel storage tank and delivery system.
Liquid hydrogen is three times denser than 5000-psi compressed hydrogen. The cryogenic liquid is stored in a lightweight tank, allowing more hydrogen to be carried onboard to increase flight endurance. Success in flight requires developing a high quality, lightweight insulated flight dewar for the cryogenic fuel, plus matching the boil off of the cryogenic hydrogen to the vehicle fuel consumption.
To address the logistics of in-theater supply of liquid or gaseous hydrogen, NRL proposes in-situ manufacture of LH2 for use as fuel. An electrolyzer-based system would require only water for feedstock, and electricity, possibly from solar or wind, to electrolyze, compress, and refrigerate the fuel.
Much quieter and long-endurance, too. I wonder what its thermal signature looks like?

So, fuel from water to a special tank to power fuel cells to drive electric motors.

Potentially a game changer in the world of powering land vehicles, too,  I would think.

Makes me wonder a little about the future of fossil fuels.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Join Us for the Midrats' 250th! 19 October 14 at 5pm (EDT)

Please join us Sunday, 19 October 2014 at 5pm (EDT) as we once again explore the U.S. Navy and national security on live "radio" on Midrats Hits 250:
Believe it or not, this week is our 250th Episode of Midrats.

In celebration, we're clearing the intellectual table, going to open the mic and see where it takes us.

From Kobane, to Coastal Defense, to Ebola and everything in between and sideways that's been in the national security news as of late, plus whatever else breaks above the ambient noise - we'll be covering it.

As with all Midrats Free For Alls, we are also opening the phone lines for our regular listeners who want to throw a topic our way.

Come join us Sunday as we try to figure out how we got to 250.
Join us live (and join in) or pick the show up later to by clicking here. Don't forget that Midrats is back on iTunes, too, for later listening - which you can reach here.

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #30

From The Door Into Summer
My old man claimed that the more complicated the law the more opportunity for scoundrels.

A little too true, isn't it?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fighting Ebola: The National Guard Call Up Makes Sense

Photo Credit: Sgt. Joshua Ford, U.S. Army North PAO
It has been widely reported that President Obama has authorized the federal activation of National Guard units to respond to the Ebola problem - see here:
President Barack Obama on Thursday authorized the Pentagon to call up reserve and National Guard troops if they are needed to assist in the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Obama signed an executive order that allows the government to call up more forces and for longer periods of time than currently authorized. There is no actual call-up at this point.
This makes sense because some Army National Guard units have special training in such matters.

Friday Fun Film: "U.S. Defense Against Foreign Plague"

Quarantine stations? Keeping disease out? Such strange concepts . . .

UPDATE: Yes, we still have Quarantine Stations, operated by the CDC:
U.S. Quarantine Stations are located at 20 ports of entry and land-border crossings where international travelers arrive. They are staffed with quarantine medical and public health officers from CDC. These health officers decide whether ill persons can enter the United States and what measures should be taken to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Quarantine officers are responsible for activities as various as responding to reports of illnesses, to screening cargo and inspecting animals and animal products, to monitoring the health of and collecting any medical information of new immigrants, refugees, asylees, and parolees.
You might be interested in this advice to airlines:
Updated October 15, 2014

CDC requests airline crews to ask sick travelers if they were in Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone in the last 21 days.

If YES, AND they have any of these Ebola symptoms—fever, severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding—report immediately to CDC.
If NO, follow routine procedures.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fighting Sea Mines: Long Range AUV Endurance Run

NRL photo
A prototype Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) sets an endurance records that may help the U.S. Navy counter-sea mine operations and, maybe, other operations. Navy 'Mine-Hunter' AUV Sets Mission Endurance Record:
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL) Acoustics Division, with Bluefin Robotics, executed a record setting 507 kilometer (315 mile), long-endurance autonomy research mission using its heavyweight-class mine countermeasures autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), Reliant.
Navigating from the waters of Boston Harbor, the 20 foot long, 1,350 pound, 'heavyweight' AUV traveled south past Cape Cod, headed west through Nantucket Sound between Martha's Vineyard and the mainland, and then continued south of Long Island to the approaches to New York City. The fully autonomous endurance mission was designed to push the boundaries of traditional AUVs with the objective to uncover the challenges and requirements for significantly extending AUV endurance for new applications.
"This record multi-day research mission demonstrates the state-of-the-art autonomy methods and capabilities of the Reliant AUV," said Dr. Brian Houston, head, NRL Physical Acoustics Branch. "It is our first step in developing a robust autonomy paradigm for AUVs in long endurance scenarios."
Houston and his team are developing AUV based technologies that include extension of the Knifefish technology (as part of the Office of Naval Research Future Naval Capabilities program), increasing ranges for mine countermeasure (MCM) operations, and advancing autonomy for AUVs. Houston's team is also applying this new technology to shallow water Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). This more recent development provides the Navy with the technical foundation for high performance detection and classification of difficult ASW targets using active sonar on AUVs in challenging environments.

The purpose of the system is to address the Navy's need to reliably detect and identify undersea volume and bottom mines in high-clutter environments with low false alarm rates. The Knifefish system is a part of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) mine countermeasure (MCM) mission package targeted to reduce risks to personnel by operating in potential minefield regions as an off-board sensor, allowing host ships to remain at safe distances outside minefield boundaries.
NRL Image
Mine neutralization operations are by their nature generally slow. Tools like this might speed things up in the right circumstances.

And you gotta love that teaser about "ASW . . . in challenging environments."

I'm Tired of the News

Stock market falling, Ebola spreading, ISIS on the march, Afghanistan to follow, China, Yemen, refugees, campaign ads about to drive me crazy.

I need a diversion.

Time for Bugs Bunny!

Oops! Racist. Shame on Bugs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Energy Wars: Fusion Power

Aviation Week got an exclusive look at Lockheed's fusion reactor:
Lockheed estimates that less than 25 kg (55 lb.) of fuel would be required to run an entire year of operations. The fuel itself is also plentiful. Deuterium is produced from sea water and is therefore considered unlimited, while tritium is “bred” from lithium. “We already mine enough lithium to supply a worldwide fleet of reactors, so with tritium you never have too much built up, and that’s what keeps it safe. Tritium would be a health risk if there were enough released, but it is safe enough in small quantities. You don’t need very much to run a reactor because it is a million times more powerful than a chemical reaction,” McGuire notes.
Faster. But be safe.

Five or so years to another breakthrough that eases the stress on fossil fuels and the land and maritime routes needed to get them to market?


Disaster Prep Wednesday: Beware of Trees!

Okay, there any number of things to worry about in life and disasters and trees seem like remote issue. But are they really a non-threat in a disaster situation? The answer should clear - trees can be a problem - because under the right conditions they or pieces of them can fall on things or people and cause serious harm to life and property.

First and perhaps most obviously, forest fires involve . . . trees. As noted in Disaster Prep Wednesday: Surviving Wildfires, has some advice for homeowners on Wildfires - advice that requires you to be a bit proactive. Things like clearing an area around your property, moving flammable like gasoline away from the house and arranging for water to be on hand.
Carolyn Costello/KTLA
Also in that post were suggestions for people caught up in a wild fire while out enjoying more peaceful aspects of nature.

We've also all seen those news images of the damage wrought by wind during thunderstorms or other severe weather - trees on houses, cars and in the roadways.

Andy Jacobsohn/DMN
And on power lines where trees can cause both power outages and create the danger of live wires on or near the ground - and rip power boxes off houses (see here).

So, in addition to clearing some space around your house, how should you deal with trees to mitigate possible damage?

It might be useful to look at the concept of "hazard trees":
Worrying about hazards has resulted in the unnecessary removal of many trees. Although the problem of hazard trees needs to be addressed by every landowner and land manager, removal should be an act of last resort. Instead, some technical knowledge and a lot of common sense are the keys to preventing injuries, property damage and lawsuits due to unsafe trees.
Some ideas from a power company here:
Trees are the number one cause of power outages. Selecting, planting, and maintaining trees properly helps reduce power interruptions and even prevents power outages.
Power companies seem to be big on tree planting considerations - see here:
No trees should be planted near high-voltage transmission lines. However, many trees are attractive additions to your yard and, under normal conditions, will not grow tall enough to interfere with distribution power lines. Some of these are:

* Trident, Amur, Paperback and Tartarian Maple
* Flowering Dogwood
* Crabapple
* Hawthorne
* Bristlecone Pine
* Honeysuckle
* Staghorn and Smooth Sumac
* Common Juniper
* Rose Acacia

On the other hand, avoid planting tall-growing trees like these near or under power lines:

* Silver Maple
* Norway Maple
* Oak
* Colorado Blue Spruce
* White Spruce
* Most Pines
But what if a tree, planted by some previous owner of your property or by nature, lands on you house during a storm? Reader's Digest offers up some ideas here, the first of which is:
Get Out Use whatever route is safest to leave the property. This may or may not be the same as your fire-escape route.
Some warnings on chain saw safety here:
Each year, approximately 36,000 people are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries from using chain saws. The potential risk of injury increases after hurricanes and other natural disasters, when chain saws are widely used to remove fallen or partially fallen trees and tree branches.

So, be careful when planting, inspect your trees regularly and have any limbs most likely to cause harm removed.

And don't mess with power lines dropped by falling trees or tree limbs.

Not sure that you have to "beware of trees" as much as you need to be aware of trees and their potential to cause harm.