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


 

Federal Response to Domestic Terrorism Involving WMD Training for First Responders

Statement by President Richard A. Marinucci

Presented to
Subcommittee on Military Research and Development
House National Security Committee
Curt Weldon, Chairman

March 21, 1998

Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman. I am Rich Marinucci, Chief of the Farmington Hills Fire Department in Michigan. I am appearing today as President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. We very much appreciate your holding this hearing today.

As we look forward to the 21st century, we can see that the emergency service community faces new and different threats. These new hazards include a number of threats that have not been adequately dealt with in the past, including domestic terrorism.

The emergency services community must face the fact that United States security, intelligence, and law enforcement will not always be successful in preventing a terrorist attack. It is up to the emergency services to be there when the terrorist incidents occur. It is also important to understand the ramifications of responding to a terrorist incident. It is not the same as traditional large scale emergencies. The safety of emergency service providers is at stake and must be an early consideration. The media will also take a very active interest in the incident, from start to finish. The public has very high expectations of the government in a terrorist situation, and they demand extraordinary effort.

The federal government depends directly on local emergency service providers and their actions during the initial emergency phase of the incident. There are a lot of eyes watching. Emergency managers, law enforcement personnel as well as fire and emergency service providers should be aware of this and be prepared.

ROLE OF FIRST RESPONDERS

When an act of terrorism occurs the only organized emergency response organization to immediately deal with the incident and begin mitigation will be the local fire and emergency services departments. The first two or three hours of work by the local fire force will greatly determine the number of lives saved and the eventual outcome of the incident. It is critical that Congress and the federal government clearly understand the role of the local responder. In almost all cases, the federal assets responding to the incident will not arrive until well after the most critical period has passed... up to six to eight hours later. I would like to submit, for the record, a terrorism response timeline which the IAFC has developed. It graphically shows the anticipated response of emergency forces - and clearly demonstrates that the local first responders are alone for the most critical hours.

Federal response plans regarding terrorism are usually described in two roles - crisis management and consequence management. Crisis management deals with the enormous task of trying to prevent an incident from occurring. Consequence management concerns itself with planning for an incident before it happens, then recovery and rehabilitation after the event.

I want to point out that there is a third area - that area called "local emergency response" immediately after the event. "Local emergency response" fits in between crisis and consequence management. "Local emergency response" begins at that point immediately following notification of the terrorist act. "Local emergency response" is that intense and vivid period of several hours when local first responders cope with the aftermath of a major incident. It is that time when local first responders work alone.

ROLE OF FEDERAL RESPONDERS

In 1996 Congress passed two laws regarding acts of terrorism: The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici provisions of the Department of Defense Authorization. Both of these important laws contain provisions designed to help prepare local fire and emergency response organizations to better deal with acts of terrorism. These laws are implemented respectively by the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense. You will hear today from fire chiefs whose communities have been aided by both of these laws. What I will focus on in my testimony are the policy issues which need to be addressed by Congress to ensure that the administration is delivering what is truly needed by America's fire and emergency services.

Department of Defense

In November 1997 Defense Secretary William Cohen announced he was enhancing significantly the role of the National Guard to work with other federal agencies and state and local officials. Recently, he announced the establishment of a Consequence Management Program Integration Office to oversee the activities of the National Guard and reserve components. We welcome this news, since the National Guard, while military, is under the control of state government and is accessible at the local level. The federal government must acknowledge in planning a role for the National Guard and the reserve component that the military will be a supportive asset for the incident commander who in all likelihood will be the municipal or volunteer fire chief. It must be understood that any federal asset - military, law enforcement, emergency management - will necessarily be in a support role. We applaud the National Guard for its continuing effort to work closely with the IAFC and the fire service as it enhances its mission for maximum effectiveness at the local level.

We request that the authority enhancing the current role of the National Guard to support local first responders be clearly spelled out. We need a "wiring diagram" of how federal assets are requested. What is the federal 911 number? How is it activated? Who determines what assets will be sent? What are the defined roles for each federal asset/agency dispatched? Do they understand that they will report to the local incident commander for assignment? The answer to these questions must be understood and agreed upon by all parties. There can be no hesitation or confusion about any of this after an incident occurs.

Department of Justice

Let me say at the outset that we have a close relationship with the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the FBI. Nancy Gist, Butch Straub and Andy Mitchell of BJA have done an excellent job working with the fire service to produce excellent training materials. First was an awareness training package that has already trained 8,000 firefighters. 68,000 are expected to be trained by June 1999. Currently under development is an incident command module. Additionally, more than 80,000 video tapes warning first responders about the dangers of secondary bombs have been distributed to fire, police and EMS organizations. The reason the BJA program has been so successful is that it was developed in very close cooperation with the National Fire Academy (NFA) to insure its acceptance by the fire service. It is important that the key role of the National Fire Academy in preparing fire and emergency service leaders be recognized and enhanced to increase its capability.

We have also found the FBI to be most helpful to the fire service as we prepare for terrorism. Specifically, we have excellent communication with Bob Blitzer, Rinaldo Compara and Barbara Martinez of the Domestic Terrorism and WMD Sections. We enjoy a high level of responsiveness and a willingness to work together in coordination of our efforts and we are looking for to enhancing this relationship in the future.

INCIDENT COMMAND SYSTEM

To quote from the report prepared by the DOD Tiger Team dated January 1998... "Local response to an emergency situation uses the Incident Command System (ICS) to ensure that all responders and their support assets are coordinated for an effective and efficient response. The Incident Commander is normally the senior responder of the organization with the preponderance of responsibility for the event (e.g. fire chief, police chief, or emergency medical)." I could not have stated it better. When federal assets arrive, the ICS will be in place. They will be plugged into that system by the Incident Commander. Therefore, there is an urgent need for every federal agency that responds to any type of emergency to adopt the Incident Command System - the one taught by the National Fire Academy.

TRAINING AND EQUIPMENT

Both the Antiterrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act and Nunn-Lugar-Domenici lay out provisions for training and equipping first responders. These have been identified by Congress as the two key roles for the federal government in assisting first responders to deal with acts of terrorism. And, these are indeed the two crucial elements for which the fire and emergency services look to the federal government for assistance.

On training issues, you will hear from fire chiefs who have received federal training from both programs. Both the Department of Justice and Department of Defense programs are important, both are necessary, both are beneficial, both can be improved, and both need to be better coordinated between the two agencies and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Congressional oversight is required.

A national domestic preparedness consortium has been formed to provide operational training, exercise, test, and evaluation for first responders as well as municipal leaders. The consortium consists of the National Exercise Test and Training Center - Nevada Test Site, the National Emergency Response & Rescue Training Center - Texas A&M University, The National Center for Domestic Preparedness - Ft. McClellan AL, National Center for Bio-Med Research and Training - Louisiana State University, and the National Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center - New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. These training and exercise areas and supporting organizations are important in preparing first responders to deal with acts of terrorism. The IAFC endorses the consortium and recommends continuing support from Congress as a matter of policy.

Finally, training needs to be expanded beyond the 120 most populous jurisdictions that DOJ and DOD have targeted. Strategic and critical U.S. infrastructure - such as water, electrical power, telecommunications sites - are often located outside the major metropolitan areas. These areas are protected by combination career and volunteer departments and by all-volunteer departments. Congressional mandate must direct that federal training reach the fire and emergency services nationwide. We believe that the resident and non-resident programs of the NFA offer an excellent existing delivery system that should be utilized to the maximum extent possible.

On the issue of equipment there is a clear and demonstrated need for sophisticated detection equipment. Simply stated, we need to know what we're facing. What chemical or what biologic agent? First, how to protect ourselves and second, what is the proper strategy and tactics to deal with the incident? Provision must be made when detection equipment is made available to first responders for (1) training on equipment use, (2) maintenance, (3) spare parts, and (4) future upgrades. This cannot be a one-shot deal but rather a continuing partnership between the federal government and local fire and emergency responders.

There is also a need to help local response agencies acquire personal protective equipment (PPE). Local fire departments simply do not have the resources to purchase all of the protective equipment necessary to deal with a large scale chem-bio attack. Federal assistance is vital.

The ability to engage in a large scale decontamination effort demonstrates yet another equipment need. Some federal groups, such the Marine Corps' Chemical Biological Response Force, have some decontamination abilities. However, they can only be most effective when pre-positioned in anticipation of a specific event. The effectiveness of these capabilities are greatly diminished when geography dictates a response time of six to eight hours.

HOSPITAL CAPABILITY

The fire and emergency services will be responsible for the triage, emergency medical treatment and transportation of the sick and wounded resulting from a terrorist incident.

A large scale WMD incident will sorely test any community's ability to deal with mass casualties. Congress needs to closely examine the ability of hospitals to deal with victims arriving at their emergency department doors. Drug and antidote caches, decontamination facilities, and hospital pre-plans should be a focus of congressional inquiry and policy. Federal assets such as Veterans' Administration Hospitals might be considered for an important role.

WIRELESS RADIO COMMUNICATIONS

In 1996 the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee submitted its report to the Federal Communications Commission. One of the key provisions in the report asked the FCC to set aside 2.5 MHz of spectrum for interoperability. I know that you have taken a great interest in wireless communication. We participated in your hearing on this subject last March. But I want to take this opportunity to ask Congress to push for the policy of directing the FCC to establish several frequency ranges for interoperability purposes. As you know, the ability to communicate between and among first responder agencies in the same jurisdiction and then at different levels of government was virtually non-existent in the New York City and Oklahoma City terrorist incidents. This situation must be corrected.

BIOLOGICAL AGENT INOCULATIONS

The Pentagon recently announced plans to vaccinate all U.S. military personnel against anthrax bacteria including some mission-essential civilian employees. Consideration should be given to make this or any other vaccine available for fire and emergency services first responders - the domestic defenders. Vaccines made available to municipal and volunteer fire and rescue departments should be utilized on a local option based on a threat analysis.

CONCLUSION

The fire and emergency services need assistance from the federal government in the areas of training, detection equipment, personal protective equipment and mass decontamination abilities.

The federal government must organize its various missions and objectives with the clear understanding that once a terrorist event occurs the local first responders will be on the scene and operating in six minutes while federal assets will not arrive for six hours. The federal government must understand completely its supplemental, supportive role to the local incident commander.

It is incumbent upon federal departments and agencies to involve the fire and emergency services in the conception, design and review of all federal plans that relate to the response to terrorist incidents. We are currently working closely with Bureau of Justice Assistance, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Guard. This should continue and should be a matter of Congressional policy. We also strongly encourage FEMA support for National Fire Academy involvement with DOJ and DOD on fire service training issues.

Finally, we solidly support Nunn-Lugar-Domenici and the Antiterrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act. We strongly urge Congress to view these laws as ongoing and long-term federal policies.