Expert Report

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The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command plans to construct and operate a new Medical Countermeasures Test and Evaluation (MCMT&E) facility at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. The facility is intended to handle infectious agents that require safety precautions to the extent of animal biosafety level-3 and -4 and biosafety level-3 and -4. These biosafety levels describe laboratory practices and techniques, safety equipment, and facilities needed to protect against exposure to such agents. An Army contractor is currently developing a site-specific risk assessment as part of the process to support construction of the facility. This letter report evaluates the work plan for conducting that risk assessment.

Key Messages

  • The MCMT&E facility has not yet been designed, so the site-specific risk assessment needs to be fully transparent about the assumptions being made in regard to facility design, construction, and operation.
  • The work plan should include methods, such as failure analysis, for prospectively assessing the likelihood and consequence of potential release events.
  • The work plan lays out a two-tier process of conducting qualitative and quantitative risk assessments, but does not adequately describe the criteria that will be used to decide whether a quantitative risk assessment will be performed. Quantitative analysis is the preferable approach.
  • Risk communication plans should include two-way community engagement, and go beyond the explanation of risk and risk scenarios to include discussions of risk management plans that will minimize risk of a release event.