Consensus Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

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.