On September 11, 2001 Airliners hijacked by al Qaeda crashed in to the World Trade Center in New York. In the same year the USA was hit by anthrax attacks.I had been working on a number of environmental projects aimed at eliminating microbes in water/air systems since circa 1992.
At the time of the attacks my wife was working in an MoD complex and I was very aware of the threat level to the UK.I had finally managed to track down an old technology that was developed decades earlier, but had been lost after World War II.
I spoke to my client, a technology investor, who asked me to draw up a plan and cost the R&D to expedite matters. I received the thumbs up to move ahead and manage the testing phase for the project.For a short while I was wondering whether I had been too adventurous in promising my client that I could work with the UK defence departments to undertake the necessary testing?
I managed to find a company that had rebuilt a number of units based upon an old unit found in East Germany after the Berlin Wall came down. The technology showed great promise in destroying the most resilient of microbes, the dreaded Anthrax spore.
I conducted desk research and gathered together all available data. Then I traveled to a hospital in Germany that were testing a unit for their HEVAC systems, where I collected the data logs and interviewed the site technicians.
I managed to “borrow” a unit and made contact with the one laboratory that I knew could put the machine through its paces – Porton Down DSTL. I’ve visited some scary places in my time, including helping with HEVAC technologies at Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital – but there’s something about Porton Down that is seriously unnerving. Perhaps it’s the signs telling you to seal yourself in your car if the alarm goes off whilst you’re parking up? Perhaps it’s those unusual sprinkler systems and what they might dispatch?
As always, the staff of DSTL were a pleasure to work with and they were very helpful. I managed to persuade them that it was in the best interests of the UK to test the technology at their expense. For anyone reading this who does not know what Porton Down work on – they have the brightest scientists in the UK (if not the World), who have access to some of the most hideous diseases on the planet.
Finding a Level 4 High Containment Virus Laboratory is not easy, so I was very pleased to be able to negotiate working with them. I was even more pleased that my client did not have to foot the bill.Suffice to say, within a couple of weeks I was invited back to DSTL to discuss the tests.
My research had paid off. Porton Down confirmed the efficacy of the technology (and on a personal level I was pleased to have done my bit for defence of the Realm). I was even more pleased when they guaranteed that the technology had been completely sterilized before handing it back to me!