DHS ‘Ill-Prepared’ for Pandemics

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 @ 03:09 PM gHale

The governmental agency charged with keeping the country secure is not ready to handle potential pandemics, a new report said.

Despite receiving $47 million in budgeting to train, plan and get ready for these types of events, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is not ready, the DHS Inspector General said.

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The DHS Inspector General report, published in The Washington Post, found the vast majority of the department’s antiviral drugs are due to expire next year, that most of its hand sanitizer stock has already expired, and that its agencies don’t know where to find their personal protective equipment.

“A severe influenza pandemic presents a tremendous challenge, which may affect millions of Americans, cause significant illnesses and fatalities, and substantially disrupt our economic and social stability,” the report said. “It is DHS’s responsibility to ensure it is adequately prepared to continue critical operations in the event of a pandemic.”

Although the report focused on influenza, it covered DHS’s preparedness for all potential pandemics.

Auditors found 81 percent of the department’s antiviral drugs are due to expire next year, and 84 percent of its hand sanitizer stockpiles expired — some by up to four years.

The problems stem from a lack of proper inventory controls, supply-replenishment plans and compliance with department guidelines, according to the report.

DHS management agreed with all 11 of the inspector general’s recommendations, which included assigning an office to oversee pandemic preparedness and developing a strategy and system for managing supplies.

“DHS is constantly seeking to improve our pandemic preparedness and is committed to protecting our employees in order to ensure the effectiveness of our mission,” department spokeswoman S.Y. Lee said.

Lee added DHS had identified the issues related to its pandemic preparedness before the audit took place and that the department has already taken actions to address them.

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