Mike Morris, Director
Bio Detection Systems - BDS
In the wake of the Anthrax crisis of 2001, the Postal Service has begun installing Bio-Detection Equipment in a number of plants throughout the country. The systems were developed and prototypes were tested in various Postal facilities. The development process has been reviewed by a number of federal agencies with specific subject matter expertise including the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the Navy Medical Research Center, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.
The Executive office of the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy created a working group to review the performance of the BDS and confirmed with their own tests that the BDS is consistent with the state of the art laboratory-based detection systems and is sufficient to perform the task stipulated by the Postal Service.
Although the technology used in the BDS system is not new (it is the same as was used to monitor the air during the 2002 winter Olympics) the combination of technologies is new.
The BDS basically works by collecting a continuous air sample at a specific pinch point on the machine. The sample is drawn into a collection chamber mixed with reagents and then the machine performs an on-site rapid DNA test of the collected sample. The test results are sent electronically to Postal Officials.
What if there is a positive result?
If the BDS registers a positive result an automatic visual and auditable alarm will be activated - at this point the local facilities Emergency Action Plan should be put into effect. The system further provides an immediate notification to the plant manager as well as direct notification from on-site system monitoring personnel. The manager activates the facility emergency action plan and notifies local first responders and/or emergency personnel (911). The postal service has said that to insure proper notification there will be notifications received from multiply sources. The union will be notified.
When a positive BDS alert alarm sound the machine will be shut down and evacuation procedures will start. Employees should proceed to their designated evacuation site, supervisors are to take a roll to ensure no one is left in the building and a stand-up talk is to be given to further explain the nature of the event. Everyone is to remain in the evacuation area until further instruction is received from the community emergency personnel. The Postal Inspectors will do a building search to insure everyone has been evacuated.
Facilities that have received the BDS machines are required to update their Emergency Action Plans, conduct drills and follow proper notification procedures.
Members and the public should not be misled into thinking that the BDS system will analyze and detect anthrax in all mail pieces. In point of fact, 50% of the letter mail is not processed on the Advanced Facer Canceller System (AFCS) and therefore will not be exposed to the detection by this equipment. Metered mail or pre-sorted mail will enter the mail stream beyond the AFCS; therefore it is not appropriate to present this equipment as providing employee safeguards against all anthrax exposure.