Since September 11, 2001, first responders have made significant progress strengthening capabilities needed to defend the nation against the threat of WMD coupled with terrorist threats. The DHS national guidelines developed and implemented nationwide have provided a durable framework for multi-agency coordination and cooperation. This is important because terrorist attacks or major disasters often are beyond what a single jurisdiction can respond to effectively. However, whether levels of preparedness as a result of proper training are adequate at all levels of government may prove difficult to assess. Many emergency response and management professionals believe that the nation is better prepared than it was prior to11th September 2001, but still has plenty of room for improvement. For example, priority missions identified in Homeland Security Strategic Plans have associated capabilities taken from the DHS Target Capabilities List. Each capability must reach target levels of performance if an adequate level of preparedness is to be achieved. It is clear that the emergency response community benefits from national standards that allow response entities to coordinate more effectively than before. However, to reiterate, is this level of preparedness where it needs to be? If not, what are the shortfalls and how should they be addressed? The biggest challenge for achieving an appropriate level of preparedness nationwide remains the need for continued strengthening of multi-agency capabilities which can be achieved through proper training of emergency responders. Multi-agency preparedness, in terms of multi-agency capabilities through capacity building and training and achieving target levels of performance, is critical for safeguarding the country.
Quality of terrorism response training at the local level
There are a variety of terrorism training programs provide by the US federal government at the local level which are all aimed at equipping emerging responders and other concerned parties in disaster preparedness and management. These departments and agencies are spread throughout the core areas of government operation like Homeland Security, Energy and defence. Each department is mandated to provide specific training programs related to their areas of jurisdiction and also targeted to specific audiences (General Accounting Office, 1997). The local government personnel and the individual states are for instance some of the key receivers of these counter-terrorism training services. Nevertheless, first responders are of great importance in these training programs as they are uniquely identified as professional caretakers in disaster emergency response cases. Additionally, the federal government has also taken keen interest in injecting the necessary training tools both to the public and private sector officers who are directly involved with infrastructural development as they are usually key targets to terrorist activities (Maniscalco & Christen, 2010).
On the overall, the training programs are meant to enhance capacity building and training to individuals so that they can always be in a state of preparedness and also be able to give prompt response to disasters which are related to terrorism. The training tool kits are tailored towards improving disaster response ability. The Department of Homeland Security for example, has a wider mandate of ensuring that the Country is safe from terrorism activities. It does this by developing training programs right from the federal level to individual first responders at the local level. This paper attempts to evaluate the quality of terrorism response training available at the local level and whether it is thorough enough to equip individuals with necessary competences and skills required for terrorist attacks. Tentative recommendations on the issue are equally deliberated upon.
To begin with, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has several sub units in its administrative structure which are all geared towards providing training services from the local to the federal level. In so doing, the department of Homeland Security has quite a number of institutes such as the Law Enforcement Training Centre. This training unit links other agencies which provide counter-terrorism training to individuals. On the other hand, the administration of Emergency Management Institute is under the docket of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Alongside these units, the National Fire Academy is specifically concerned with the training of First Responders in matters of fire outbreaks during disasters (Hamm, 2007). For the sake of promoting management practices related to emergencies, Emergency Management Unit is positioned in place to facilitate the program. Both the resident and non resident course programs are handled by the Emergency Management Institute in order to improve on the quality of the programs which are taught because the nature of terrorist attacks are dynamic and requires a broadband approach in terms of emergency management practices.
The Office for Grants and Training (G&T) works together with the Department for Homeland Security in order to enhance disaster preparedness response in US. This office is the key agent of DHS in providing anti-terrorism training both at the state and local level. The WMD training is also of significance to Grants and Training Office since this unit does not work in isolation but has partner members to improve on its delivery. For example, Training and Data Exchange Group is a key collaborating partner of G&T. Additionally, there are numerous private organisations which have partnered with G&T in the training of personnel towards counter-terrorism activities. In broadening its approach and training diversity, G&T is also a partner member to National Domestic Preparedness Consortium, a public wing within the federal government. The main purpose of G&T training program is to be able to meet the diverse training requirements of its recipients. The training package begins with the need to improve disaster awareness. G&T considers this to be a critical starting point because unless the audience who are First Responders in this case are not aware of the initial tale tell signs of terrorist attacks, it may be practically difficult to respond to emergencies. The performance level then follows in which the basis for planning and management of terrorist attacks is launched. These levels are procedurally followed during training services. Moreover, a variety teaching inductions are used in the G&T training program. For instance, the use of a classroom set up is common to meet special teaching delivery needs of the audience. There are also other conventional approaches like train-the trainer approach which seeks to enhance an incisive interactive mode between the trainer and the trainee in achieving the best results. Modern methods of training deliveries are equally in place. The use of the internet and the World Wide Web has been found by G&T to reduce the physical distance and time requirement for certain training modules. A large number of trainees can be reached through the internet and especially with the use of video conferencing which is being used by G&T.
In order to maintain consistency and an updated course program, TRADE, a federal agency which interconnects several agencies has been put in place. It is imperative that the training officered to First Responders is validated and reviewed from time to time to meet the changing systems and complexities involved in terrorist attacks (Lewis, 1993). In order to achieve its mandate, TRADE has quite a number of agencies which operate under its umbrella. For instance, the National Fire Academy agency is a member to TRADE. Further, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is an active partner in this validation. It consistently updates its investigative skills and competences owing to the dynamic nature of terrorism. Other departments which are working together with TRADE include but not limited not the Department of Energy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In other words, TRADE coordinates most of the activities related to counter-terrorism training in the aforementioned agencies.
The National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC) is primarily responsible for training infrastructural needs of the different agencies which offer the same throughout the United States. This is important because counter-terrorism training program would not be possible without properly enhanced facilities in place (Eliot, 2007). NDPC has a broad membership throughout the country to enable it deliver its task effectively. For example, the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CPD) which is located in Alabama is solely responsible for capacity building and training of local emergency responders in Anniston but its training facilities are under the custody of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium. Another NDPC center is located in Louisiana State University as a training wing within the institution. The discipline offered in this university is basically tailored to train individuals on anti-terrorism. The Nevada Test Site is a national center which seeks to improve excellence in the quality of training offered to emergency responders.
In some cases, specialised training on counter-terrorism has been found to be necessary. For this reason, the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CPD) has been set up to mitigate as well as manage terrorism activities which are unique in occurrence. A case example of such specialised training is that entailing toxic compounds and other substances which might be hazardous in nature.
Terrorist activities need not to be managed alone but there is always great to prevent such incidences from happening. The First responders need to be equipped with the necessary detection skills even before the actual incidence occurs. As a result, the Academy for Counter-terrorism Education (ACE) has devised course programs which assist First Responders in the prevention process with specific reference to WMD. The training module is diverse. The beginner course is on fire fighting and the skill obtained is gradually developed to higher levels in which emergency responders are capable of handling disasters involving toxic substances (McHugh, 1995).
Another local agency providing training services on counter-terrorism is the National emergency Response and Rescue Training Center. It is located right at the A&M University in Texas. It has a wider audience base because it offers training needs for anti-terrorism from the local to the federal level. Professionals who are working within private and public institutions are also targeted in the training program. This is done so because the use of specifically trained emergency responders may not be adequate especially in situations whereby mass response and help is required. The Center recognizes the need of training as many first responders as possible to meet the growing demand.
To facilitate the provision of radiological training, the National Exercise, Test and Training Center offers training programs to first responders at the Nevada Test site. The state and federal training on incidences of WMD are also given attention here (Smith, 1990). The use of nuclear agents by terrorists is considered to be one of the emerging challenges in combating terrorism and hence the National Exercise, Test and Training Center has designed case sensitive topics to be studied under radiology.
The private sector, learning institutions and other professional units have not been left behind in the anti-terrorism training programs which are being offered at the federal, state and local levels. For this reason, there are a number of partnership agreements which have been drafted and also adopted by these groups and the Office for Domestic Preparedness Training Partners. This has been facilitated by G&T in liaison with TRADE. The primary aim of developing partnership programs in the training aspect of anti-terrorism is to reach a large majority of individuals who can be part and parcel of emergency responders during disasters; moreover, the partners are viable source of support in terms of resource requirements in the training process. There are several partners who have been incorporated into this agreement (Riley, 1995). The U.S Army Dugway Proving Ground and the National Sheriff’s Association belong into the Office for Domestic Preparedness Training Partners program.
The Department of Defence (DOD) training programs on counter-terrorism are mainly targeted towards building the capacity of its staff in disaster management. There is a wide range of training modules which the Department of Defence offers (Johnson, Ledlow & Cwiek, 2005). For instance, both biological and chemical anti-terrorism lessons are taught with regard to the emerging trends in terrorist attacks. The use of radiological and nuclear equipment in the detection and management of terrorism is quite well in place. DOD has also embraced latest technology in delivering its lesson packages (Maniscalco & Christen, 2001). This is considered to be in line with the high-tech contemporary terrorist attacks. For members who are not part of the Department of Defence, there are a few training programs which are offered. In most cases, the training modules offered by the Department Of Defence to individuals who are not DOD personnel are basically medical and technical in nature so that they may be summoned as first responders to army personnel who may be injured during terrorist attacks. Besides, most of the training packages are made possible with the assistance of the American Red Cross society which implies that they are usually First Aid curses in nature. For army personnel, the Department of Defence has several bases through which it provides its courses. The U.S Army Medical Research Institutes for Chemical and Infectious Diseases is one such base situated in Maryland. Another similar training ground is in California at the Joint Interagency Training Center. The several training centers enables a wider reach to army personnel who need to be equipped (Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, 2009).
Technical help and capacity building to individuals working indifferent government units have also been considered fore training programs. This is the rational behind the transportation of radioactive toxins by the Department of Energy (Griset & Mahan, 2003). First responders are trained by the Department Of Energy in order to assist with the transportation of such substances to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Over 30 million dollars has been disbursed in more than 20 states to aid in the financing of training programs for the shipment of these wastes to other designated sites.
The protection of the most important infrastructure in the whole of United States of America has been mandated o the Environmental Protection Agency. The key resource being protected by the agency is water (Jackson et al. 2002). To attain its goals in the water sector development, the agency has established smaller units within its structural organ to facilitate safety procedure both for water resources which have been considered as wastes as well as those for fit for consumption. It is against this backdrop that the Environmental Protection agency has involved key stakeholders and other individuals in the water protection plan especially through terrorist activities which are lethal to the safety of this highly valued resource. The training dedicated to the water sector is aimed at increasing awareness and prompt response to terrorist threats on water. Furthermore, training for vulnerability assessment on used water resources is one of the core operations of the Water division within the Environmental Protection agency (Pangi, 2002). EPA has also been very instrumental in supporting G&T financially in the training of first responders needed for widespread wastewater points. The homeland Security Presidential directives has also been playing custodian role towards the implementation of the set goals and objectives by the different agencies. The need for full support and interagency collaboration as far as training capabilities is concerned has been core in its agenda. The Environmental Protection Agency has broadly defined roles and responsibilities to pursue (Cocciardi, 2004).
The needs of the public health as well as healthcare provides has not been ignored at all in the existing training programs against terrorism. In order to facilitate training and capacity building in this area, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers supportive services related to health like medical tests and other chemical and/or biological tests which give tentative alarms to the threat of terrorism. The areas being targeted under training programs are varied depending on the need (Greene, 2002). One such training on public health is on the diagnosis and treatment of terrorist casualties, the ability to protect affected victims while undergoing medical treatment alongside effective flow of pertinent information during disasters. The Department of Health Services is also required to avail laboratory services which are up to date. All the agencies under the HHS are obliged to finance as well as monitor training exercises within their areas of jurisdiction. The Office of the Secretary under the Public Health Services is responsible for the training and coordination of workers in public health who are concerned with disaster preparedness and first response.
The evaluation of the training quality available at the local level reveals a lot with regard to a wide rage of multi agency help which is needed during terrorist attacks. In the first place, different organizations have varying ways of responding to emergencies. These differences may be due to several factors like the nature of their operations (Auf der, 1989). For instance, the strategy which a law enforcing agency will use when responding to an emergency is not the same as the one used by a health organization in tackling a similar disaster. In order for our country to be able to deal with the threat posed by terrorism, preparedness and effective risk management procedures which has been obtained from effective training, safety managers are supposed to be armed with suitable and working decisions which aim at seeking protective alternatives rather than embracing curative approach in handling terrorism. Trained emergency responders need information which they can easily access is not guaranteed under the current circumstances when emergencies are to be handled. The very information should have a high degree of accuracy (Pangi 2002). In particular, the federal agencies should have sufficient cache supply so that a fully integrated program is put into place.
As an essential ingredient in emergency preparedness in case of terrorism, responder agencies need to keep clear records which contain their important materials as well as those from outside. The earliest sessions during the process of responding to an emergency are vital because it will the set the right pace and methodology rolling. This should be included in the training module. Furthermore, there is need to employ the skill and competence from emergency experts (Maniscalco & Christen, 2001). This expertise knowledge will assist in developing the most applicable strategies to adopt in handling emergencies occasioned by terrorist attacks. Although these emergency responders have a host of information at their disposal, it may not necessarily lead to a positive effect as far as disaster management is concerned. There is need for effective communication on the procedures and standards to be used when setting disaster preparedness guiding principals (Keyes, et al. 2005). The response agencies have the duty of creating and pursuing some form of standard initiatives while the relevant authorities are mandated to enforce decision s which is considered safe by experts in reference to disaster preparedness and management. Nevertheless, if the said safety procedures are implemented at the site of the incidence, the whole situation becomes much more complex and difficult to overcome the prevailing challenges. Safety management in line with disaster preparedness has not been fully distinguished especially when major disasters have to be dealt with. This is indeed one area which has exhibited serious flaws in our disaster preparedness and management. The main role of the Incident Commander is to control all the operations of the First responders. However, the commander is limited in his line of duty in the sense that he cannot exercise express authority over all of them. Moreover, the higher the number of First responders alongside actively participating volunteers who have divergent views and own standards of operations complicates the smooth and more coherent functioning of an Incident commander who is leading rescue operations (Jackson et al. 2002). Individual First responders mainly maintain the responsibility of safeguarding the safety and sound health for their groups only. As a result, there are no centrally harmonized strategies which can adequately address the safety and health needs of other responding groups. Some responders may not have the necessary requirements which deal with protection. This, among other eminent challenges may sometimes make rescue efforts to be a scary and unpalatable experience to engage in.
Even as the federal government strives to institute a variety of measurable goals and workable institutions to deal with terrorist attacks, there are other factors which continue to hamper disaster rescue plans whenever there is need to (Olsen, 2005). A case in point is the large geographical area to be covered whenever a disaster occurs. This factor has continued to make it very difficult for disaster managers to respond sufficiently on disaster zones. In retrospect, it will also be challenging to cater for safety of First responders as required or appropriate Maniscalco PM, (Christen 2001).
In summing up this paper, it is indeed imperative to observe that disaster preparedness strategies and capacity building through training need to enhanced, if our country is to attain some degree and sense of security on matters pertaining to safety measures and risk management during disasters. The September 11 terrorist attack was a tip of the iceberg on how the federal government may not have evolved the right measures and mechanisms to deal with early detection and prevention. The most debatable question here has been the safeguarding of first responders who may be in form of organizations and volunteers. Similarly, lack of a common procedure of handling disaster emergencies when these agencies take charge has equally complicated the risk and safety principles needed during such operations (Kipp & Loflin,1996).
The scene of the September 11, 2001 attack and the Crash Flight 93 which took place in Shanks Ville were easily identified promptly. It was also easy to establish that nobody survived. Such immediate feedback enables decision makers to reach at relevant decision making points and take required actions. This is one level of response mechanism that is required if our nation will have to be in a state of optimum preparati0on just in case an inevitable disaster strikes (Greene, 2002). Likewise, response operations which took place at the site of the World Trade Centre immediately after the terrorist attacks are a vivid indication of a complicated scenario. This is because the authorities could not make a defining line between the recovery and rescue plans. They were unable to do so due to the prevailing circumstances. Such hindrances should be dealt with well in advance in an attempt to eliminate slow response mechanisms.
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