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The magnitude and character of recent terrorist events have called into question the readiness of the nation's state and local emergency response and health and medical personnel to respond effectively to future incidents, to correctly identify hazards as they occur, and to mitigate damage to persons and property. This issue paper discusses the challenges of measuring preparedness for chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents and illustrates the difficulties using detailed, nationally representative data from local response organizations on the existence and exercise of plans to address these types of incidents. It uses a RAND survey conducted from March to September 2001 about domestic terrorism involving WMD to a national cross-section of more than 1,000 state and local organizations. The survey results show that few organizations have a plan in place sufficient to address a moderately sized chemical and biological incident. The paper points out a major challenge for policymakers: formalizing and systematizing threat assessments and preparedness measures in order to provide a rational basis for future WMD preparedness policy decisions

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