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


 

Testimony of:
Chief John M. Eversole
Coordinator of Hazardous Materials
Chicago Fire Department

Before the:
Military Research and Development Subcommittee of
The House Committee on National Security

"Federal Response to Domestic Terrorism Involving Weapons of
Mass Destruction - Training for First Responders."




On behalf of the City of Chicago it is an honor to appear before you today to present a brief overview of our city's preparedness for terrorism through the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Since the very day after the unconscionable sarin attack on the Tokyo subway we have been assessing the ability and improving the capabilities of our city to react to such a situation.

Although we had a strong Incident Command procedure and city employees who are use to working together, we were not ready for those types of incidents.  Our usual sources were not able to give us immediate knowledge of these war products.  We reached out to the Illinois National Guard and they were most helpful.  On very short notice they were in our city.  They taught us the basics and loaned us the equipment to at least minimally detect the presence of chemical warfare agents.

As time moved on, Congress took initiatives that would begin to prepare our country to protect its self against this nuclear, biological and chemical threat.

Congressmen, as you are well aware, the implementation of the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Act has not been an easy nor fast road.  Much had to be learned by everyone.  Many local people expected that the Federal Government would rush in to save the day.  Many states felt that it was their job to save the day.  Many Federal people felt no one but them could save the day.  Now, after a long, hard and I believe intelligent look, we know the truth and the way to success.  It will take all of us if we are to succeed!

Our success in an incident involving weapons of mass destruction will depend upon the unmatchable capabilities of the Local 1st.  Responders.  If they are well trained and reasonably equipped they can protect themselves, their community and can minimize the overall effects.  We dare not wait even a few hours before taking decisive action.  If the Local 1st.  Responders are to do this they must be supported by a significant effort from State and Federal agencies.

Over the past year we have seen a significant effort from the Department of Defense.   The DoD has been limited in what it is allowed to do.  The road to successful implementation has not been smooth.  The differences between military and civilian thinking has been great in some areas.  By a long and sometimes heated dialogue we have been able to work out most of our differences.

I would take this opportunity to publicly commend.  Col.  Robert Fitton and Mr. James Warrington.  Many people are working on this project, but these are the two that I deal with most directly.  I am sure that Chicago, and in particular me, was the cause of many Excedrin headaches.  Because of these men and their staffs, we are a long way down the road.

We are moving down that road but we still have a long way to go. ft is time for the Federal Government to broaden it scope of assistance.  We must finish the job of preparing the Local 1st.  Responder.  We must adequately equip the Local lst.   Responder.  We must establish a long term supply line which will keep our Local lst.  Responders current with the latest intelligence and the newest equipment.   This supply system must be clear to all and readily available to meet our needs.

Very recently we learned that the National Guard will take on a larger role in preparedness and response.  We in Chicago applaud that decision because we have had nothing but eager cooperation and great success in our dealings with the Illinois National Guard.  They have responded to our call and shown us that they can produce - if just given the chance!

We, the Local lst.  Responders, must work closely with the Guard to determine how they can best aid us.  We need a conduit which will bring from the Federal level, a regular support system to insure that we are always prepared.

Please remember --- when it happens, the bell will ring in the local fire house.   Firefighters will get on their apparatus, the doors will open and we will answer the call to destiny.  How good we are will determine what is left of our community.