Volume I, Domestic Preparedness Program in the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction


3. Unmet Training, Equipment, and Other Requirements of Civilian First Responders Necessary to Provide Basic Capability to Respond to a Domestic Chemical or Biological Attack

3.1 Introduction

Several Federal agencies have conducted studies and focus group discussions with different local, state, and regional representatives over the past several years in an attempt to determine the needs of first responders in the event of a WMD incident. These studies focused on areas such as plans, capabilities, procedures, training, equipping and response integration at different levels. The findings from several of the studies/discussions are summarized below.

3.2 Studies

3.2.1 National Governors’ Association - September 1996

In September 1996 the National Governors’ Association (NGA) conducted a workshop for the NGA’s policy advisors with representatives from FEMA, DoD, DoE, EPA, FBI, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The workshop sought to 1) identify the nature, impact, and response issues associated with a nuclear, biological or chemical terrorist incident; 2) discuss the adequacy of both Federal and state plans and response capabilities to an incident involving mass casualties; and 3) formulate the next steps for developing a coordinated Federal, state, and local response framework.

In preparation for the workshop, NGA conducted a survey of the 26 participating states to assess the capabilities of these states to respond to and manage the consequences of nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) terrorism. These 26 states were chosen because their large urban areas and other factors could make them potential targets for a terrorist incident.

Most states acknowledged they receive satisfactory intelligence about potential terrorist groups operating in their state and could adequately respond to a nuclear terrorist attack due to their planning and training for possible nuclear power plant accidents. However, in the arena of chemical and biological terrorism, the states felt they were not adequately resourced or trained. The NGA findings indicate a need for more information on the types of resources available to combat chemical or biological attacks and indicated a need for Federal assistance in areas of monitoring and detection equipment, technical assistance, manpower, and recovery efforts. FEMA recommended holding regional meetings to review resources and discuss issues of mutual concern between the Federal and state governments.

First responder issues focused on the states’ capabilities to respond to an NBC terrorist incident, recognizing that first responders are essentially on their own for the first six to ten hours after an incident has occurred. Participants discussed resources the Federal government could provide and the role of Federal agencies during the early stages of the crisis; leveraging existing capabilities and expertise; improving interaction between emergency management organizations and first responders; acquiring low cost NBC equipment and protective clothing; improving decontamination capabilities; conducting specialized training; and providing opportunities for partnerships with industry to advance current expertise and develop tools and techniques.

Public information issues explained the need to present fully coordinated, timely, and accurate emergency information to the public and the importance of considering the objectives in consequence management versus crisis management.

Law enforcement and intelligence issues centered on the collection, analysis, production, and dissemination of terrorist intelligence information between state and Federal agencies. Participants also addressed public safety issues and agency roles regarding the responsibility for maintaining order and discipline during and after an incident.

Health and medical service issues focused on the states’ capabilities and capacities, and the type and quantity of assistance available from the Federal government.

When discussing how the states and Federal agencies could best work together on the issue of NBC terrorism, most states suggested that FEMA should hold regional meetings. To develop a coordinated framework for states and Federal agencies to work together, FEMA proposed the following: imitate the Federal Response Plan (FRP) review process at the state level; host a series of workshops at the regional level; establish a national information clearinghouse; visit/assist each reviewing state; pool Federal and state capabilities data; develop a national plan outlining state and Federal responsibilities, priorities, and approaches to develop/sustain capability; secure state and Federal funding support; and implement a multi-year plan.

3.2.2 FEMA - September 1996

During September 1996 FEMA met with representatives from Boston, MA; Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA; and Philadelphia, PA. They focused on the capabilities and needs of local government to respond to terrorist incidents involving WMD. Input and feedback from this sampling of U.S. metropolitan areas was intended to provide an indication of the spectrum of nationwide preparedness at the local level. Participants primarily represented emergency response and public health organizations from the respective state and local governments. Policy and subject matter experts included Federal officials from FEMA, the FBI, DHHS, and DoD.

Four concurrent sessions were held to discuss the local response to terrorism scenarios involving NBC incidents tailored to reflect specifics of each city’s jurisdiction. A surprising number of common response issues were identified among the four different types of incidents.

Participants believed that local government had the ability to meet normal emergency response needs: performing the firefighting, law enforcement, emergency medical services and rescue tasks they do so effectively on a day-to-day basis. In addition, some personal protective equipment and some hazardous materials response equipment is generally in place at the local level and would be available to respond to a very small WMD incident. However, they identified a critical need for access to information and expert advice as well as training. They also thought that local government was ready, willing and able to do more with the proper training and equipment.

The groups highlighted the need for subject matter experts to be identified and available within the first few hours of an incident. These subject matter experts would provide advice and reference materials describing the hazards, the effects and recommended protective response actions.

Beyond technical experts, personnel resources would be required by local

governments to assist with the potentially massive public impacts of such incidents - whether it be mass casualties or large-scale evacuation. National Guard (NG), state police, and additional fire and emergency medical personnel from outlying municipalities were noted as probable sources to meet these needs. The cities indicated that in many cases mutual aid agreements were in place to obtain resources from neighboring communities. In other cases, they recognized the need for such agreements and that this was a local responsibility.

The need for hazard-specific procedures was uniformly supported. Local responders do not have enough knowledge of the requirements for response to NBC threats to develop their own procedures. Guidance from state and Federal experts is needed on procedures to monitor, treat, protect and decontaminate after release of NBC contaminants.

Participants highlighted training as a key component in building local, state, and Federal response capabilities. First responders need awareness training specific to NBC hazards so that they could quickly recognize victim symptoms and other characteristics of such an incident which may distinguish them from other hazardous material incidents. Participants also felt that first responders needed training on routes of exposure, means of protection, health effects, treatment and monitoring, and decontamination methods. Training on handling of mass casualties and on the requirements of triage was also highlighted as a need for the emergency medical community.

Multi-jurisdictional exercises were noted by the groups as another critical element of the preparedness program that was currently missing. They felt that local plans and procedures were evaluated on a frequent basis, but that opportunities to test integration and coordination with state and Federal agencies were lacking. The groups encouraged the Federal government to promote more full-scale integrated exercises.

Overall, the group consensus was that the local preparedness for response to WMD terrorist incidents is nominal. To the extent that hazardous material preparedness applies to the NBC arena, some base level exists. However, a great deal of progress remains to be made on resource, planning, and training fronts regarding the unique nature of NBC terrorist incidents.

3.2.3 FEMA/FBI - January 1997

FEMA and FBI submitted a Joint Report to Congress in January 1997. It addressed both crisis management/prevention and consequence management/response activities. This report focused on capabilities and interagency roles and responsibilities to respond to an incident involving WMD. In the assessment summary, the impact of a WMD incident and significant response requirement were recognized.

A NBC terrorist incident may occur as a local event with potentially profound national implications. In responding to a NBC incident, first responders must be able to provide critical resources within minutes to mitigate the effects of the incident. Since the ability of the local government to deal with the immediate effects of an incident is essential to the success of any NBC response, enhancing and maintaining the local capability with trained and adequately equipped responders is a key component of a viable national terrorism response capability.

While the assessment of the FRP and Federal capabilities found some deficiencies, it also identified several current capabilities being expanded to ensure a more viable national level NBC response capability. Current initiatives for supplementing existing plans, enhancing operational response capabilities, and increasing the availability of training are ongoing. These new efforts, coupled with ongoing preparedness efforts, will facilitate a better coordinated and more effective response by local, state, and Federal governments to the consequences of domestic NBC terrorist incidents.

3.2.4 DoD - February 1997

DoD, with the support of other Federal agencies, conducted a series of focus group meetings with first responders during February 1997. The findings and recommendations of the groups formed the basis of a comprehensive set of training performance objectives (Annex A). Based upon the focus group’s review, a training course development program was begun to modify existing training courses, and develop programs of instruction and instructional material.

3.2.5 DoD/DoE - April 1996

DoD and DoE, in consultation with FEMA, submitted a report to Congress in 1996 on current plans, resources, and capabilities to respond to a nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical terrorist attack. The report covered consequence management plans and capabilities. Key points made were, first, there is a fundamental shift from the local or regional level of Federal involvement and decision-making authority to Washington, DC and the SECDEF’s personal involvement during a WMD domestic terrorist incident. Second, there are some highly trained personnel available and excellent capabilities in many consequence management organizations to respond to a domestic NBC disaster. Finally, first responders need training, equipment, and supplies, yet there are limited quantities of DoD combat supplies available for NBC contingencies.

The shift in the level of involvement was due to recognizing the mass casualties, physical damage, and potential for civil disorder resulting from a WMD detonation. Simply stated, a terrorist use or potential use of a WMD is considered a vital threat to the national security of the United States.

The interagency community found that including consequence management experts from the very beginning of a crisis management response was absolutely essential for minimizing casualties, reducing public panic, and ensuring a rapid Federal response to state and local communities. The interagency counterterrorism community has also taken steps to include senior policy decision-makers for consequence management in their Washington deliberations on crisis management.

The FRP, involving 28 departments and agencies, provides a framework for response to most natural and manmade domestic civil emergencies. A recently published Terrorism Annex to the FRP, addresses how the various agencies, including DoD, would respond to a domestic NBC disaster. While DoD, DoE and other Federal agencies currently have some very highly trained and well equipped teams available to respond to such an event, NBC response personnel and equipment are limited compared to the potential threat. The Federal response community continues to work together to increase their capabilities but there is still much room for improvement.

This report recognizes that state and local authorities, as first responders, are in need of their own NBC equipment and supplies, and greater access to up-to-date NBC training. DoD has an inventory of combat supplies for NBC contingencies, but in many cases this equipment is not suitable for civilian use during a terrorist incident. Additionally, the use of DoD stockpiles of NBC supplies and materials for domestic emergencies will have a direct adverse impact on military readiness and force protection.

3.3 Summary

DoD has extensively used the findings of these studies and reports to formulate the Domestic Preparedness Program. The specific elements of the program are discussed in Section 5. The ongoing program of activities in FY 97 encompassing planning and guidance development, training and exercises, and capability enhancement involving Federal, state, and local governments will improve the current levels of preparedness and response.

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