Bioterrorism Alert Tool Installed in Chatham County

Chatham County has received extra security just in time for the G-8. The county is the first community in the state to be protected by First Watch, a new computer program that can automatically alert authorities of possible outbreaks of disease or bioterrorism attacks.

It works by continuously scanning information given to operators on 911 calls as they come into the dispatch center. The system compares symptoms and complaints reported by patients to both the historical database and the symptoms identified with specific events.

"What it does is capture the data for the last couple of years and looks at trends and then it sets these triggers," explained MedStar director Rick Shores. "Then if that trigger is set off then, it notifies admin, it notifies the health department, it notifies the CDC or whoever we want it to notify that something out of the normal has happened."

When an abnormal pattern occurs, the software automatically alerts emergency personnel through faxes, email, and wireless messaging systems.

Reported by: Ron Wallace,