Bioterrorism: Unthinkable but Insurable

Decontamination Station

The bombings in Boston on April 15 re-kindled concern about a type of risk no one likes to think about: bioterrorism.  Risk managers, however, must think about it and prepare to mitigate as much of the human, environmental and financial fallout from such an event as possible. This preparation includes considering bioterrorism-specific insurance coverage that is, in fact, currently available.

“Terrorism refers to the use or threat of force or violence against people or property.  A bioterrorist attack releases viruses, bacteria, or other germs to cause illness or death,” as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Biological agents can be spread through the air, in food and can be directed against environmental resources, such as reservoirs, waterways, and potable drinking water supplies.

Recent reports indicate that bioterrorism is more than just a hypothetical scenario—it is a real and evolving risk.  Because of the significant third-party damage potential, many of different types of businesses could be targets of a bioterrorism attack, e.g.:

  • facilities or buildings in densely populated areas
  • water treatment or distribution facilities
  • hospital and health care facilities
  • chemical companies
  • large stadiums or arenas
  • etc.

Prudent risk management often includes prevention protocols, a response plan and working to mitigate the financial risk of a catastrophe that has the potential to bankrupt a company.

Bioterrorism Can Be Covered

Fortunately, biological terrorism coverage is available from almost all the carriers offering environmental insurance.  Most markets offer this coverage through an endorsement via inclusion of bioterrorism agents in the definition of pollution conditions.  “Bioterrorism agents” in most environmental policies means the deliberate release, discharge or dispersal of viruses, bacteria or other agents—living or dead—by a third party.

While terrifying to think about, the catastrophic potential is real and, unfortunately, proper preparedness, biosurveillance, response planning and prevention measures will only get you part of the way there, which is why it’s imperative that you put additional risk management measures in place to help transfer the risk of for a bioterrorism event.

About Anthony Wagar

Anthony is a Executive Vice President and the National Sales Leader for Willis Towers Watson's Environmental practi…
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3 Responses to Bioterrorism: Unthinkable but Insurable

  1. Pingback: Bioterrorism: Unthinkable but Insurable.

  2. andrew duckworth says:

    Interesting piece and very relevant at the moment with the heightened threat from Syria and Ricin attacks int the US. Catlin offer a great policy with Response from SecureBio, the worlds leading CBRN Response experts

  3. Alba Murphy says:

    Great article. Always wise to be prepared.

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