DHS Needs More Data to Help Stop Bioterrorism

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The agency is looking for nationwide information on medical interventions, food safety, wildlife health, travel itineraries and other health-related topics.

The Homeland Security Department wants a way to tap into nationwide medical databases to help detect and respond to “nationally significant” biological events.

The agency’s National Biosurveillance Integration Center on Thursday began looking for groups to provide nationwide information on medical interventions, food safety, wildlife health, travel itineraries and other health-related topics.

By plugging into that stream of data, NBIC could “improve its capability for biothreat awareness, detection, and information sharing to respond to incidents that may cascade into a nationally significant event,” officials wrote in a request for information. Among those threats are bioterrorism attacks, disease outbreaks and environmental catastrophes.

NBIC acts as a hub where different Homeland Security components can plan and coordinate responses to biothreats. The center is responsible for collecting and analyzing biological data from across the country and alerting relevant groups when incidents have the potential for widespread damage.

As such, potential vendors must be able to provide both real-time and historical data on an array of topics that potentially factor into epidemics, bioattacks and other incidents. NBIC is only considering platforms that include national-level information and meet federal regulations for data privacy and confidentiality, according to the RFI.

Officials specified the platform must include a handful of basic analytics tools that can signal unusual incidents and inform the agency’s broader decisions. NBIC doesn’t intend to build its own data stream, but rather subscribe to an existing service, according to the RFI.

The agency’s Health Affairs and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction offices will assist NBIC in assessing the value of potential platforms.

Responses are due Oct. 1.