From The White House to the Classroom – Layered Protection Is The Answer

Chief Science Offer Lew Hofmann, MD shares how his experience as the White House physician post-9/11 informed Citadel's innovative layered protection in the school environment — and why it's the best approach to health and safety.

I would like to take you back to September 11, 2001 — the day of a horrible and unprecedented attack on the United States. I was at the White House in my role as Vice President Cheney’s physician. In response to threats that you know and others that still remain classified, we evaluated all of our systems and created an enhanced, proactive, layered protection for White House operations.

One month later we were tested.

A Senate staffer opened a letter and white powder was aerosolized, ultimately exposing over one hundred White House personnel. A field test was positive for anthrax. The White House Medical Unit was ready to jump into action.

Whether creating a system for protecting the White House from chemical, biological, or radiological attacks or creating a system to ensure that schools can remain open in the face of an infectious outbreak or pandemic, the most important thing we can do is to consider every threat and account for every point of potential failure.

The weakest and least reliable link in every system is people — we call this the human factor. For the COVID-19 pandemic, the human factor relies upon vaccination, masking, distancing, isolation and quarantine in a setting where many people who are infectious have no symptoms. The best way to overcome these points of failure are layered solutions that do not require human compliance.

Since both the threat and the defense are invisible, continuous sensing is critical to offer reassurance that the environment is safe and to identify problems before they escalate into crises. Certification by recognized authorities ensures safety and efficacy.

Citadel Sciences has carefully researched and painstakingly selected the very best service companies to layer protections from the rooftop to the desktop.

Needlepoint bipolar ionization in combination with ultraviolet light will continuously and safely clean the air that people share. Surface decontamination will keep touch surfaces clean and safe. Sensor systems will allow continuous monitoring of the shared spaces.

In future articles, I will take a deep dive into each of these protective technologies, but for now, I would like to finish the story I began with.

Based on our experiences before and during 9/11, we enhanced our layered protective measures in preparation for the attack which came only one month later.

We had already moved White House mail handling to an offsite location and made preparations to run every White House letter through eradicating X-Ray. We placed detection systems in critical locations and were already monitoring for chemical, biological and radiological hazards.

We addressed the human factor with systems and protocols to evaluate, test, treat and follow people who were potentially exposed.

The White House never closed, and I believe a similar layered approach can not only prevent our schools from ever needing to close again but create the healthiest, safest possible environment for learning.