Preparedness and Response to the Terrorist Attack
The 9/11 attacks, the anthrax threat, and the continued spade of terrorist violence across the world in last eight years have brought forth the issue of terrorist attack preparedness and prevention. The modern pattern of terrorist strikes has changed drastically, and it involves hitherto unused elements such as using airlines as missiles, extensive suicide bombing and military style suicide attack on sensitive public places. Due to continued improvisation by terrorist in their terror strategies, security agencies are now preparing their counter measures in consideration with even possibly wider scale attacks that include nuclear, biological and chemical weapons (Houser, 2002). Securities agencies have therefore framed their response with learning gained from each other’s experience in handling terrorist attacks, because whatever may be the motivational differences, or the scale of the attack, pattern and consequences their pattern and consequences stay alike.
Elements of HAZMAT
1. Hazard Assessment: Creating a uniformity in thought and principle on analyzing and assessing hazard is important in preparedness program, because it creates a streamlined and effective response system. Knowing hazard levels helps security team to choose their protective gear and equipment and help them devise the best strategy to control the situation. To achieve there are calls for employing better models of assessing hazards at potentially risk prone sites, and more importantly, conduct a preliminary investigation of the site to arrange for quick and easy information flow. It is widely proposed that the best possible approach to hazard monitoring and response evolution system should involve developing better, faster, and more accurate monitoring technologies that would enable responders to analyze their working environments for themselves, and determine the best available course of action. The monitoring include better and cheaper screening tests to determine presence of chemical and biological agents along with detectors that can easily determine more common threats such as volatile organic compounds, particulates, and other environmental hazards (Houser, 2002).
2. Hazard monitoring equipment selection: Security agencies and teams that are monitoring a potentially risk prone area or region require special equipments and materials to work effectively in any emergency situation.
3. Training Exercises. Security agencies involved in terrorist attack preparedness are involved in continuous series of exercises that helps them to stay alert and responsive to. This exercise was taken up with the aim of testing federal, state and local reaction and response levels against possible terrorist attacks involving chemical and biological weapons and check US’ consequence management ability. The venues of terrorist preparation selected were Colorado/Denver and New Hampshire/Portsmouth (Runyan, 2003). The Colorado/Denver area was made to experience simulation of a biological weapon attack white New Hampshire/Portsmouth region was subjected to Chemical warfare simulation at a public event. Altogether 15 federal, state and local agencies took part in the exercise. Following is a summary of the lessons gained from HAZMAT (Houser, 2002)
1. There is requirement of high level cooperation among government agencies in case of emergency.
2. Improvement in levels of communication, sharing of information and information analysis.
3. Better training and practice sessions for agencies and personnel to deal with emergency situations.
Homeland Security and Hazmat
As a result of September 2001 terrorist attacks, US congress agreed to create Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which was entrusted with organizing and overseeing the management of Hazmat exercises. The second exercise was, therefore, organized under DHS in 2003 and it was conducted on much more comprehensive level than its predecessor (Houser, 2002). The exercise was preceded by numerous seminars and conferences involving top-level government officers and strategists elaborating on issues of terrorism, bio-terrorism, command and control and weapons of mass destruction (Runyan, 2003). The actual exercise itself took place from 12th May to 16th May in Seattle and Chicago and it consisted of simulation of simultaneous attacks on these cities by radioactive weapons and biological weapons. The participants in the exercise included 47 national level agencies, 40 state level agencies, Red Cross and 17 agencies of Government of Canada. The major lessons learned from Test 2 were
1. Safety and disaster management issues embedded in a mass attack.
2. Evaluation of individual role, level of required coordination and response time by responsible agencies.
3. Evaluation of all the possible courses of action in the emergency situation
4. Engaging international, national and local cooperation in effectively combating a crisis situation.
The third in the series of simulated emergency situations was HAZMAT3 exercise, conducted from April 4 to April 8, 2005. By all standards, T 3 was the most comprehensive simulation exercise ever conducted in US. It involved more than 200 federal, state, and local government and private agencies, emergency services, health organization, and volunteer groups. Also of the significance were the simultaneous simulation exercises conducted by UK and Canada that provided an atmosphere of international cooperation. T3 (Links, 2005). The venues selected for the simulated exercise that involved attacks by chemical and biological weapons were New Jersey and Connecticut. The lessons learned from T3 were highly significant from strategic planning and decision point of view and they included (Link, 2005)
1. Identification of appropriate agencies to look at different aspects of an emergency situation to provide most rapid and timely response to the situation.
2. Information sharing management among all the departments and agencies involved in the event of any emergency
3. A joint action mechanism to protect critical infrastructure assets and public life.
Links, J.M. The Application of the Haddon Matrix to Public Health Readiness and Response Planning. Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 113, 2005
Houser, A. 2003. Protecting Emergency Responders: Lessons Learned from Terrorist Attacks.: Rand. Santa Monica, CA.
Runyan CW. 2003. Introduction: back to the future–revisiting Haddon’s conceptualization of injury epidemiology and prevention. Epidemiol Rev 25:60-64.