Preparing for Terrorism
Dezelan, Louis A., Law & Order
Army Conducts Emergency Preparedness Training
" When we have a free path, we go forward. If we meet an obstacle, we go around it. If the object cannot be overcome, we retreat. When the enemy is unprepared, we surprise him. If he is alert, we leave him alone." Baader-Meinhoff Gang (German urban terrorist organization)
The above quote indicates that terrorist groups make an effort to "leave alone" potential enemies who are prepared and alert. To heighten the preparedness level of first responders, the U.S. Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command (CBDCOMM) is conducting a Domestic Preparedness Program. This is intended to improve the ability of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel in 120 U.S. cities to respond to nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) incidents instigated by terrorists.
The preparedness program, which consists of a full week of training and practical exercises, focuses on six trainthe-trainer courses:
Emergency Responder Awareness,
Emergency Responder Operations,
Technician-Emergency Medical Service and
The courses are designed for emergency responders and local trainers who can pass on similar instruction to emergency responders in their communities. Once the federal team members have conducted the Domestic Preparedness Program, each city can then determine which classes will benefit its community and schedule appropriate training. One course is the exception to the trainthe-trainer approach, the Senior Officials Workshop is taught directly to each city's Mayor and his cabinet.
The training, which began in Philadelphia in August 1997, will continue through 2001. Representatives from law enforcement, fire and rescue services, and hospitals at the local, state and federal levels are brought together to learn of the extent of the terrorist threat and to gain knowledge from one another about how they might share resources and knowledge when dealing with NBC incidents.
The instructors for the training are independent contractors with expertise in the pertinent subject matter. According to CBDCOMM, the instructors are divided into two groups: those with expertise in nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; and those who are emergency responder experts. The training is coordinated by a federal interagency team comprised of representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense.
The legislative driver for the training is the Nunn-Lugar-Dominici Act of 1996, passed as measure to defend against weapons of mass destruction that may be used on domestic soil. The impetus for the act came in part from the 1995 Sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway, the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, and the bombing of the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building.
Sponsored by Senators Richard Lugar (R, Indiana), Sam Nunn (D, Georgia) and Pete Dominici (R, New Mexico), the Act provides funding for the Department of Defense to enhance the capability of federal, state and local emergency responders in incidents involving nuclear, biological and chemical terrorism. According to Senator Lugar's office, the goal is to allow the Department of Defense and other federal agencies to transfer their knowledge of NBC warfare to civilian forces.
CBDCOMM, located at the in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is the center of Department of Defense chemical and biological expertise. In selecting the 120 cities to receive the preparedness training, CBDCOMM took into consideration population, special events that might occur in the cities, and special needs that cities might have in combating terrorist acts.
Indianapolis was the 13th city to receive CBDCOMM training. Those trained included personnel from the Police Department, the Marion County Sheriff Department, the State Police, the Fire Department, the Indiana National Guard and several other agencies that might play a role in responding to an NBC incident in central Indiana. Representatives from federal agencies like the FBI, FEMA, and the DoD participated in the training and the accompanying practical exercises. Personnel were assigned to the various training components based on the roles that each might play as responders. As a battalion chief with the Fire Department, I was one of the 387 trainees.
All of the trainees attended the Basic and Responder Awareness Courses. This four-hour facet of the training focused on discussion of a video, which dramatized a fictitious incident at a crowded shopping mall where a terrorist had released the nerve agent Sarin.
Instructors reviewed the history of terrorist attacks since 1970, including the March 1995 incident where the Aum Sharikyo cult executed an attack on the Tokyo subway system by releasing Sarin in five separate subway cars at five separate sites. The subway cars were scheduled to converge in the center of Tokyo at the height of the morning rush hour. Twelve individuals died in the incident and more than 1,000 people were hospitalized. Because they were not aware of the dangers of an NBC incident, several first responders became casualties.
The Responder Awareness Course covered the types of groups that might initiate an attack in the U.S., why they might attack, the types of chemical agents that might be utilized, and methods for responding. The training offered insight into the capabilities of nerve agents and vesicants (chemicals like mustard gas and lewisite that cause blistering) and how first responders might distinguish one agent from another.
Trainees were then separated into groups to attend courses specific to their areas of responsibility; as an IFD operations chief, I attended the four-hour Emergency Responder Operations course and the six-hour Incident Command course. The Operations course focused on chemical downwind hazard analysis, personal protective equipment, detection and identification and a practical exercise. The topics covered in the Incident Command course included coordination of resources, protective measures, perimeter security and the roles that federal agencies might play in an ABC incident.
Paramedics and medical technicians attended the Technician-EMS and Hospital Provider Technician courses. Dr. Michael Ollinger, head of Emergency Services for Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis said he was impressed with the quality of the training and with the credibility of the people conducting the training. He said it was disturbing to him to learn how easily a relatively small and inexpensive device could paralyze a major city. "Even the threat of such a device can put a major city on hold," he said.
Members of area HAZMAT teams attended the 12-hour Technician-HAZMAT course. HAZMAT responders learned the differences between responding to an NBC incident compared to a standard HAZMAT event.
Much of the training referenced the video of the Sarin attack on the shopping mall. The video was shown in several stages to allow trainees to discuss what their reaction might be in various stages of the incident: the first few minutes, the first hour, the first 24 hours and so on.
An interesting aspect of the training was the difficulty responders might have in recognizing an NBC attack for what it is. In the training video, it took some time for the fictitious responders to realize that the Sarin attack was more than a routine emergency medical incident in which a civilian suffered a seizure. The realism of this exercise was demonstrated in the Tokyo Sarin attack. It took two hours for the fire department to recognize the situation as one terrorist attack and not several routine emergency medical incidents.
The finale for the week of training was a tabletop exercise in which the trainees were presented with a fictitious terrorist NBC attack in Indianapolis, and had to develop a plan to deal with it. The trainees were questioned how the various agencies would prepare for an incident if threatened, and then how they would react if terrorists actually took action.
The presentations focused on how each group would react in the first few minutes of the incidents, in the first few hours of the incident and in the longer term. The culmination of the exercise was each agency's plan for returning to normalcy.
Police Deputy Chief Tim Martin said the training opened his eyes concerning the potential scope of an NBC incident. "It was positive training and it makes you aware of the big picture rather than the specific incident," he said.
"We learned that with NBC events you need to bring in other agencies quickly. An incident like a nerve agent release could develop into a situation that lasts for several days and no local agency can handle an incident like that alone. You may need all of the public safety entities in the area, as well as the army and state and federal agencies."
Martin also said that the training made him aware of the danger of focusing too intently on one incident. "Even during a major NBC incident," he said, "you still have to think about normal operations in the areas not affected. A substantial part of your jurisdiction will still have normal, day-to-day activity occurring."
Many of the participants cited crossagency interaction as a valuable reward of the exercise. Fire Operations Chief Harry Tibbetts said that the main thing he learned was who was available for help if something happens on his watch. "Learning about the full resources that IPD, the State Police, the FBI, the National Guard, FEMA and the others could provide an incident commander is invaluable information," he said.
Dr. Alan Handt, Indianapolis Public Safety Director, was pleased that the private sector was invited to play a role in the training. "The training was some of the most comprehensive and timely training that we've had chance to participate in. The training was enhanced by the number of agencies that participated, including the private sector individuals that represented Lilly and the hospitals."
Handt was referring to Eli Lilly and Company, the $8 billion pharmaceutical manufacturer that is headquartered in Indy. Michael S. Russo of Eli Lilly Corporate Security, was one of the private sector employees who attended the training. "The CBDCOMM training gave Lilly an opportunity to better understand the threat from domestic terrorism," he said. "It also gave us a chance to learn how to respond with and work with public safety departments to recover from an NBC incident."
Indianapolis Fire Chief Keith Smith feels that such training serves as a notice to anyone who might consider an NBC attack on a U.S. city. Smith said, "One of the instructors told us that the Middle East extremist group Hamas has a saying: 'If you're hungry, why hunt a lion when you can more easily devour a sheep?' This training will make U.S. cities look more like lions to any group out there considering an NBC attack." L&O
For more information about the CBDCOMM training, contact the Public Affairs Office, U.S. Army Chemical Biological Defense Command at (410) 671-4345 or visit the CBDCOMM web site at www.cbdcom.apgea.army.mil.
Chief Louis Dezelan is a 23-year veteran of the Indianapolis Fire Department.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Preparing for Terrorism. Contributors: Dezelan, Louis A. - Author. Magazine title: Law & Order. Volume: 46. Issue: 10 Publication date: October 1998. Page number: 107+. © Hendon Publishing Company Jan 2009. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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