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Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism
and testing kits in general use today are too slow. More concerned with victims than with their own welfare, first responders will routinely put on their breathing apparatus to enter a site without first performing tests. If the smoke and dust happen to contain dangerous toxins for which their apparatus is not a safeguard, the lives of the first responders may be lost.
The effectiveness of the EOC operation is directly related to how well, and at what level of confidence, its communications systems operate. In desktop training and simulated event testing, the EOC usually communicates well with police, fire and EMS units, but in real events the situation may change rapidly and planned procedures may not be as effective as intended. Communications equipment must operate reliably in the presence of products of fire and explosion, and when located in suboptimal places. In the World Trade Center (WTC) attack of September 11, where transmission repeaters apparently failed, the situation rapidly broke down; command and control staff could not communicate with their units engaged in the first response (Dwyer, 2002). As a result, first responders, although following the plan, were lost.
Adding to the responsibilities of the EOC, as the significance of an attack becomes known, mutual support and neighboring units—including county, port and other special-purpose district and state and federal personnel—will begin to arrive and the problems with communications interoperability will increase. The radios of one agency do not, by design, readily net with those of others. This communications barrier increases the danger to a city and its inhabitants during a terrorist crisis. Technology exists that could ease this problem, and policy changes and new technology could eliminate it altogether.
Implementation of Existing Technology
Vulnerability of EOC Sites and Facilities
Recommendation 8.1: FEMA, working with OHS and in conjunction with state and local agencies, should develop a recommended requirements list (RRL) of the facility characteristics, expertise, and equipment required to withstand a variety of terrorist attacks and then assess the EOCs of the major cities to determine their greatest near-term needs for improvements in physical makeup, equipment, preparedness, and plans for recovery if damaged. System redundancies and communications assets should receive particular attention. From this assessment, priority attention should be placed on bringing the neediest EOCs up to minimum standards. The city governments should share the costs of such upgrades to ensure that local authorities are committed to the project.
The RRL should be provided by the federal government to assure consistency across all EOCs and across the country. The agency best suited to prepare