Preparing for Terrorism

By Dezelan, Louis A. | Law & Order, October 1998 | Go to article overview
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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:

Incident Command,

Emergency Responder Awareness,

Emergency Responder Operations,


Technician-Emergency Medical Service and

Hospital Provider.

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.

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