9-1-1 Tops NLC Policy Unit's Deliberations

Article excerpt

The National League of Cities' Public Safety & Crime Prevention Steering Committee continued its policy deliberations on terrorism, 9-1-1 emergency services, and federal public safety grants last weekend in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The meeting was hosted by Vice Mayor Michael Keck of Little Rock who chairs the Committee. Steering committee members were joined by United States Rep. Vic Snyder of Arkansas and Captain Michael Anderson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Counterterrorism

Amidst the national debate on biological, chemical or nuclear "weapons of mass destruction" and the recent embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the Public Safety Steering Committee sifted through several policy proposals about federal efforts to address local domestic preparedness initiatives. The central concern expressed by the members is the lack of coordination among the more than forty-three federal agencies handling this issue.

"This problem threatens local incident command centers that are the first responders to prevent or react to threats and acts of terrorism," said Vice Mayor Keck. "There is no clear direction on what specific agency coordinates federal assistance to states and local governments in the event of a terrorist attack."

The steering committee voiced this concern to Representative Snyder who serves on the National Security Committee. He discussed current federal appropriations for counterterrorism activities and reminded the committee members that "despite all the training and preparation that occurs to address weapons of mass destruction, the events are still tragic and imperfect situations."

"We're (Congress) are going to be learning from you, as local first responders, to try to address this issue and improve our system of coordination for preventing and responding to weapons of mass destruction," Representative Snyder noted.

Captain Michael Anderson, who heads the Metropolitan Medical Strike Team program for cities through the Department of Health and Human Services, briefed the steering committee on local resources needed to respond to terrorist incidents such as provisions for stockpiling antidotes to decontaminate victims of biological, chemical, nuclear or radiological agents.

"Metropolitan Medical Strike Teams are specialized response teams at the city level which respond to and provide assistance to local and regional jurisdictions to effectively address responder safety issues, incident management, and public health consequences of terrorist incidents," Anderson stated. "Through this program, the teams can provide specialize medical skills, pharmaceuticals, and equipment that can assist in identifying a (toxic) agent, and in conducting victim decontamination, medical triage, and appropriate therapy prior to transportation to medical care facilities."

The steering committee approved both policy recommendations and resolution urging the Administration and Congress to implement a comprehensive action plan for counterterrorism, designating a central agency to coordinate resources between federal, state, and local governments. …