Federal Emergency Management Agency
Mr. Steven G. Sharro
Dr. Denis Onieal
Testimony before the
Military Research and Development Subcommittee
House Committee on National Security
Hearing on "Federal Response to Domestic Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction-Training for First Responders"
March 21, 1998
Steve Sharro, Acting Director of FEMA's Terrorism Coordination Unit
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman. My name is Stephen Sharro, and I am acting director of FEMA's Terrorism Coordination Unit. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you today FEMA's efforts to assist State and local emergency responders to deal with terrorist events.
If we experience a terrorist attack in this country, particularly one involving chemical weapons, explosives or incendiaries, regardless of any other special response capabilities that we set up at the Federal or State level, it will be the local first responders who will have to deal with the situation during the first critical and extremely dangerous hours. These first responders will be the ones to save any victims who will be saved, to prevent any further contamination, and to keep others from becoming casualties. They will need to protect themselves and not become victims in the process. FEMA has taken the position from the earliest days of this effort that Federal resources should be focused squarely on local first responders until we are sure that they are all fully prepared. And by prepared, I mean not just trained but also equipped.
Presidential Decision Directive 39 assigns FEMA lead Federal responsibility for
assisting State and local governments to deal with the consequences of a terrorist event.
Although FEMA has the lead for Federal consequence management, we are not in charge of the
Domestic Preparedness Program. The Department of Defense has that responsibility, and we
have worked closely with their officials and with other Federal departments and agencies
since 1996 to ensure that the programs are on target. Staff from both FEMA Headquarters
and from all 10 of our regions have participated in the visits and training that DOD has
conducted now in 30 or more cities. We have worked to facilitate DOD's interaction with
State and local governments and to ensure that the central role that States play in
emergency response is not overlooked.
FEMA has also had a direct hand in the Nunn-Lugar training program. FEMA's Emergency Management Institute developed a workshop for mayors and other senior officials to acquaint them with the special issues inherent in planning for terrorist incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. This workshop will also be available as part of FEMA's normal field training program that is offered in partnership with emergency management organizations in all 50 states and eight territories.
For the last year and a half, FEMA has headed a Senior Interagency Coordination Group on Terrorism in which senior representatives meet to ensure that Federal efforts are properly coordinated.
In addition to our work in supporting the DOD Domestic Preparedness Program, FEMA offers a number of important terrorism-related training activities through its own Emergency Management Institute and National Fire Academy.
The Emergency Management Institute focuses on the management and planning side of disaster preparedness, so its courses are generally aimed at emergency managers and policy-level community officials. EMI offers a number of courses and training materials directly related to terrorism preparedness. For example, a special terrorism version of EMI's popular Integrated Emergency Management Course is offered to communities either at the campus in Emmitsburg, Maryland or on-site in the city. This course brings together approximately 60 of the community's top officials who would have roles in an actual disaster. This includes the mayor and city manager, the fire and police chiefs, public works director, council members, schools officials, emergency medical and public health personnel, and public affairs officers. The course gives these officials two days of classroom instruction followed by a terrorism table-top exercise that is set in their own city and based on that city's vulnerabilities. The students play their own parts in the exercise. It is an extremely useful experience as officials from Oklahoma City will tell you. They had the course, though not a terrorism scenario, the year prior to the bombing and have attributed their ability to handle that situation in part to this course.
In addition to the Integrated Emergency Management Course, the Emergency Management Institute recently produced a short field course entitled, "Emergency Response to a Criminal or Terrorist Event." This one-day course can be taught by local officials using EMI materials. It focuses on the interface between law enforcement authorities and fire-rescue, and EMS personnel. It also addresses issues such as evidence preservation vs. life-saving activities and strategies for dealing with the threat of secondary devices.
As part of its normal curriculum, EMI also offers a number of emergency planning courses and courses on the Incident Command System. For example, a Mass Fatalities Incident course helps communities to prepare for either natural or man-made disasters that result in a large number of deaths.
At this point, I would like to ask Denis Oneial, who is the superintendent of the National Fire Academy, to comment on the important training that they are providing for first responders.
Testimony of Denis Onieal, Superintendent of FEMA's National Fire Academy
Good afternoom, Mr. Chairman. My name is Denis Onieal, and I am the superintendent of FEMA's National Fire Academy. The issue of terrorism is not new to us at the National Fire Academy (NFA). We began developing our Emergency Response to Terrorism courses for firefighters in 1996, before other Federal programs even existed.
NFA has a long-standing relationship with our State and local partners. Through the
Training Resource and Data Exchange (TRADE) network, which includes the fire training
officers from 50 States and 150 metropolitan departments, NFA is able to reach the entire
After beginning development of NFA's Emergency Response to Terrorism program in 1996, we received additional funding in 1997 from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Also in 1997, FEMA distributed $2.5 million in grants directly to the 50 states to enable them to deliver the NFA courses.
The first course in the series, Emergency Response to Terrorism: Self-Study, is a paper-based, awareness-level, self-paced course. The intent is to provide first responders with the outward warning signs and detection clues of terrorism incidents and with the methodology to ensure safe and successful response. To date, 200,000 copies have been printed and 80,000 have been mailed to first responders across the nation. This course is also available on the U.S. Fire Administration's website (www.usfa.fema.gov).
The second course developed was Emergency Response to Terrorism: Basic Concepts. This 2-day course provides instruction at the operations level and teaches first responders how to deal with terrorism incidents using defensive tactics. To date, 421 instructors have been trained and approximately 3,000 students have taken the course since October of 1997. It is estimated that upwards of 25,000 students will be trained by fall of this year.
The third course, which is currently under development, is Emergency Response to Terrorism: Incident Management. This course is designed to teach command- level first responders how to manage terrorism incidents. This 6-day course will be available in June of this year.
The fourth course, Emergency Response to Terrorism: Tactical Considerations is designed to teach technician and specialist-level personnel the technical nature of terrorism incidents. Issues such as mass decontamination and advanced detection and monitoring will be covered. This course is currently under development with an expected completion date of December of this year.
An additional initiative is underway to develop an Emergency Response to Terrorism: Job Aid. It will be an on-scene resource in the form of a written guide providing quick and easy access to information and suggestions for appropriate actions.
FEMA's National Fire Academy is prepared to assist in providing the Emergency Response
to Terrorism training that is needed by the nation's first responders. Our existing
relationship with state and local trainers allows for rapid dissemination of this valuable
curriculum. We have an obligation to support first responders by continuing to develop
courses, to train instructors and students in responding to and managing terrorism
incidents, and to provide funding to the States. We intend to continue developing and
delivering high quality courses in an effort to better prepare first responders to respond
to terrorism incidents safely and effectively.