Homeland Plan Coordinates Response to Disaster, Attack

WASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2005 (ENS) - "In the event of a crisis, whether an attack of man or of Mother Nature, it's critical that our response as a country be quick, coordinated, and comprehensive." With these words, head of the Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge introduced the new National Response Plan on Thursday. All federal departments and agencies that assist or support during a national incident will use this plan, whether they are dealing with threats or acts of terrorism, major natural disasters or man-made emergencies.

Introducing the National Response Plan at the headquarters of the National Governors Association in Washington, Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor, said the plan is the culmination of his term as the first Secretary of the new department created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.


Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge introduces the National Response Plan. (Photo by Barry Bahler courtesy DHS)
"Everybody agrees," said Ridge, "federal, state and local level, Republic and Democrat, independent, that this is what we need to do to make ourselves safer and more secure in the future."

Ridge has announced that he will not serve as Secretary of Homeland Security in the second Bush administration, but he believes that with this plan, he has left the United States with a "playbook" that will provide a "sense of engagement and coordination will unify the team that will be charged with responding to potential terrorist attacks or natural disasters."

The National Response Plan standardizes federal incident response actions by integrating existing and formerly different processes. The plan uses the National Incident Management System (NIMS) to establish standardized training, organization, and communications procedures for multi-jurisdictional interaction and clearly identifies authority and leadership responsibilities.

The plan also provides a comprehensive framework for private and non-profit institutions to plan and integrate their own preparedness and response activities, nationally and within their own communities.

Ridge said that rather than dictating to the other levels of government and private sector responders, the federal government made an agreement with them all - so the result is a shared plan.

"Everyone had a seat at the drafting table," said Ridge, "governors and mayors, law enforcement officers and firefighters, emergency managers, public health workers, security and public works professionals."

The National Response Plan and the supporting National Incident Management System establish incident management processes to:

"Basically, the National Response Plan establishes a brand new way of doing business," Ridge said. "It's an all-hazard, multi-disciplined, cross-jurisdictional way of standardized, predictable practices and procedures for federal governments to work with the state and the local and tribal governments in the private sector to protect the nation. The document truly brings the country together, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to major acts of terrorism, as we confront a determined, adaptive and creative adversary."

Chief John Buckman of the German Township Fire Department of Evansville, Indiana played an instrumental role in the development of this plan, serving on the Department of Homeland Security State, Local and Tribal Advisory Council.

“This document recognizes the critical role the fire service has always performed and therefore it maintains that integrity by retaining the Emergency Support Functions (ESF) documents that support the body of the National Response Plan," Buckman said. "The ESF should be familiar to local Fire Chiefs as these documents lay out the roles and responsibilities for the fire service."

“These documents are the groundbreaking tools that will unify the emergency services communities in preparing and planning prior to major incidents,” said Bill Killen, second vice president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, who represented the association at meetings that shaped the project.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) one of 32 signatories of the new National Response Plan, has begun implementing the plan and its nuclear and radiological incident annex.

"The agency has required significant emergency response and security upgrades at facilities and now, with the implementation of the new plan, the NRC and the entire emergency management community are better prepared than ever to respond to both man-made and natural disasters," said NRC Chairman Nils Diaz.


Responders deal with a hazardous materials incident. (Photo courtesy EPA)
Technical experts from within the NRC participated in developing the National Response Plan and its nuclear and radiological incident annex.

The National Response Plan standardizes federal incident response but does not change the NRC’s statutory authority and responsibility to nuclear facilities and the communities in which they are located.

The plant introduces the Interagency Modeling & Atmospheric Assessment Center, which provides one source for information related to predictions of the consequences of an airborne release of hazardous materials.

In addition, the plan’s nuclear and radiological annex places greater emphasis on response to terrorist incidents involving radioactive material than the previous Federal Response Plan, and clarifies operational responsibilities and coordination functions.

To ensure licensees and other NRC stakeholders understand the new plan, the NRC has been holding a series of workshops across the country for emergency officials, the nuclear industry and other interested parties. The final regional workshop will be held in Orlando, Florida, later this month. A meeting for the general public will be held at the agency’s Rockville, Maryland headquarters. Details will be posted on the NRC website.

Michael D. Brown, under secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said Friday that a course has been prepared that introduces emergency management practitioners to the National Response Plan, including the concept of operations upon which the plan is built, the roles and responsibilities of the key players, and the organizational structures used to manage response resources.

"Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, our nation is resolved to better prepare to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States and reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism, major disasters, and other emergencies," said Brown. "These complex and emerging 21st century threats and hazards demand a unified and coordinated national approach to domestic incident management."

Read the National Response Plan online at: http://www.dhs.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/NRPbaseplan.pdf