An EOC is a complex organization whose success is directly related to the capability of its communications systems and the competence of its staff to handle intra- and intergovernmental operations in a crisis. The EOC must coordinate, by prearranged plan and agreement, the efforts of key leaders beginning with the mayor, city hall staff, and the directors of police, fire, and emergency medical services. Also integral to the EOC mission is interaction with senior officials from public works and public health departments, utilities, and mass care and mortuary facilities. The EOC should also have direct communications links with the control centers intrinsic to the railroads, highway and transit systems, public utilities, communications facilities, and various neighboring and mutual support organizations.
An EOC is the crisis command center for a city. As determined by its assessment of the event, the EOC must properly activate the triage structure for allocating resources and personnel that assure effective control of the immediate crisis and any cascading damages. Because timely information and analysis are essential, the EOC must be in a position to readily communicate not only with principal players in the crisis response but with governments and the public. The EOC is also expected to provide an information system to capture all pertinent event records. Clearly, in an attack crisis, the EOC is a critical asset for the city and its people.
High on the list of vulnerabilities for these densely populated areas is the possible loss or incapacitation of its EOC and its trained and experienced leadership. A variety of methods could be employed to damage the EOC and its staff, including military weapons, explosives, fire, and gasoline or other volatile mixtures. EOCs are particularly vulnerable because in most cities, their facilities are neither hardened nor necessarily easily protected, having been designed to handle responses to natural disasters.
Among the most valuable assets of the EOC are the first responders. Typically these are the police, firefighters, and emergency medical service (EMS) personnel who are the first to answer a call. First responders must quickly assess and report the situation they find; protect, rescue, and provide initial care for casualties; and safeguard property. In a terrorist attack, first responders will likely be at greater risk because of their limited ability to determine the cause and extent of the situation they find. Moreover, a terrorist could try to deliberately kill or injure as many first responders as possible in order to leave the remainder of the city more vulnerable to further attack.
For the first responders, knowing what toxins are present in the smoke and dust from an attack becomes the difference between life and death. Those engaged in this work speak of their concern for getting through the first 30 minutes. Of particular need is a quick means to test the air they must work in; air sampling