1998 Congressional Hearings
Special Weapons
Nuclear, Chemical, Biological and Missile


 

TESTIMONY BEFORE THE

MILITARY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT SUBCOMMITTEE
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY

ON

FEDERAL RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC TERRORISM
INVOLVING WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

MARCH 21, 1998

BY

CHIEF LARRY CURL
WAYNE TOWNSHIP (IN) FIRE DEPARTMENT

ON BEHALF OF
THE NATIONAL VOLUNTEER FIRE COUNCIL
AND
THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE CHIEFS-
VOLUNTEER CHIEF OFFICERS SECTION

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, Good Afternoon. It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to testify before this subcommittee on the Federal response to domestic terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction.

My name is Larry Curl, and I am the Fire Chief for the Wayne Township Volunteer Fire Department which is located on the West side of Indianapolis, in Marion County, Indiana. My department is a volunteer department of substantial size and activity, having nearly 500 members and an emergency response record of greater than 8500 emergency alarms for the year of 1997.

Our emergency service includes that of fire suppression, emergency medical treatment and transport, hazardous materials mitigation, as well as many non-emergency functions such as public education, public relations, and fire prevention. We have the distinct honor of having been the first in our State to initiate the juvenile fire setter program which provides anti-arson education to juveniles who have been involved in the setting of fires.

My testimony before the Subcommittee today is on behalf of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Volunteer Chief Officers Section (VCOS), and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC). These organizations represent America's more than 850,000 volunteer fire and rescue personnel who perform duties as the first responders to all types of emergencies. From the removal of the cat in the tree, the pumping of a flooded basement, to being the first on the scene of a terrorist incident involving a weapon of mass destruction such as lethal gas or a fertilizer bomb, the professional volunteer men and women of this nation stand ready to serve.

The implementation of the Domestic Preparedness (DP) program through the Chemical and Biological Defense Command (CBDCOM) illustrates that the Federal Government understands the importance of preparing the fire service to respond to terrorist incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. Over the past two years, millions of dollars have been spent to train and equip the fire and emergency service providers of the United States. Of note are the two separate training initiatives set forth by the Federal Government to help local responders: The Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and the Department of Defense (DoD) appropriation, also known as the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Act. While both of these initiatives provided for the training of fire and emergency service personnel, the initiatives have been focused at the top 120 metropolitan jurisdictions. The nation's volunteer domestic defenders understand that there must be a starting point for this training, but urge that this training must continue to be funded and expanded until all firefighters and rescue personnel are properly trained and equipped. This must include suburban and rural first responders as well as their urban counterparts.

We recognize the role of military agencies in controlling an area that has been affected by a terrorist incident, but question the effectiveness of having them train the fire and emergency services. This training must be provided from the fields of emergency management and hazardous materials management rather than from the military and its consultants. The military is an important player in the field of technical expertise with weapons of mass destruction, but managing the consequences of the use of such weapons in civilian settings requires a civilian approach.

The NVFC and the VCOS recommend that Congress support training of first responders on domestic response to terrorist incidents through the National Fire Academy under the United States Fire Administration and FEMA. The National Fire Academy is prepared to provide this type of training to first responder contingent on proper support through the appropriations process.

The concept of using the National Guard as a supplemental responder to these events is a valid one. However, the National Guard can not substitute for the local fire and rescue services that will respond in the first minutes of a terrorist incident. The Federal Government must support local emergency response agencies in every community, both urban and rural. Every firefighter and emergency responder in America needs to be properly trained to respond to terrorist incidents involving weapons of mass destruction.

The bomb that was detonated in Oklahoma City was believed to have been constructed and transported through rural America. Many of the fundamentalist and extremist factions within our borders operate in rural and suburban settings. These areas are protected primarily by professional volunteers. The Federal training initiatives that have been conducted have focused only on major metropolitan areas. This training must be expanded to reach America's volunteer fire and emergency service that protects rural and suburban populations.

Furthermore, we stress that State and local emergency responders are in need of additional Federal financial assistance to;

  1. continue training of first responders to the basic awareness level as well as the incident command level;
  2. acquire the necessary personal protective equipment;
  3. obtain hazardous material detection equipment and training; and
  4. purchase large scale decontamination equipment and training.

Federal resources need to be among the several tools available to local emergency managers to resolve terrorist incidents.

Thank you for your time and consideration. The NVFC and the IAFC-VCOS stand ready to support any and all efforts to ensure that America's first responders are prepared to respond to any terrorist incident. Members of both of our Boards of Directors are available at any time to meet with representatives of relevant Federal Agencies to discuss implementation of terrorism response training. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me, or NVFC First Vice-Chairman Steve Ennis in the NVFC National Office at 202/887-5700, or IAFC-VCOS Chairman Fred Windish at the IAFC Headquarters at 703/273-0911.