for potentially improving IT capabilities. The committee emphasizes that, although they are set in specific contexts, these scenarios are fictional and are not intended to reflect in detail the specific response capabilities of particular jurisdictions or agencies.


The first fictional narrative describes the exchange between responders during a chemical attack in the Washington, D.C., Metro system. It presents the use of information and communications technology from the perspective of local and tactical first responders during the onset and immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack. The focus of this scenario is on the use of communications and information infrastructure by the police, emergency medical personnel, other responding public safety personnel, and more generally by anyone (including individual private citizens) who can act as first responders. This scenario highlights a number of uses to which IT is currently put in responding to situations that occur with no warning and rapid onset. The response described here is entirely tactical, and the technology used is what has been predeployed and is on hand or can rapidly—in seconds and minutes—be brought to bear. The alert reader will identify a number of technologies used: video, chemical sensors, public safety radio, operational control systems (Metro system), commercial cellular telephone, commercial land telephone, and text messaging during the first few moments. Metro dispatch; firefighting, emergency medical, and hazardous materials personnel; Metro police; emergency managers; and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) units are all rapidly engaged and seeking information.

7:46:00 a.m.

Metro Dispatch (Mary Williams—33 years old, 5 years’ experience as a dispatcher):

“Unit 332—Report of person down—lower level, Metro Center.”

Unit 332 (John Bison—26 years old, former military):

“I’m close. I’ll respond.” John finishes his coffee, drops the cup in the trash, and begins to walk quickly to the stairway leading to the lower level.

Metro Dispatch:


The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement