Are You Better Prepared Now? Departments Respond to the Big Question

Billions of dollars have been delivered to beef up their mission capability.Recognizing that the events of September 11, 2001 unveiled real problems for first responders nationwide, federal, state and local governments have shown them the money...

The worst case scenario for Baltimore is probably the worst case for all cities. That is a surge of mass casualties resulting from an attack whatever the type - chemical, bio or nuclear. From an emergency response point of view we are confident about getting to a scene and triaging the situation. The challenge for all cities is the next step when the medical/healthcare system is confronted with handling a surge of patients in the thousands or even tens of thousands. Along with our healthcare system partners, we continue to exercise, train and put procedures into place for what might happen. But there are only so many hospitals and only so much staff to keep them up and running during such an event.

Des Moines Fire Department -- Brian W.OKeefe, Inspector, Phillip C. Vorlander, Chief of the Department

The Des Moines Fire Department is better prepared to handle a major crisis for several reasons. Staffing, training, equipment and mutual-aide agreements have addressed pre-planning, response levels incident mitigation.

Our department has received funding and support from city, county and state officials for all facets of our operations.

The public sector and private businesses are supporting our disaster planning requirements and have embraced the Incident Command System.

Cooperation between public safety agencies have enlightened us on our strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.

Worst Case Scenario for Des Moines would involve a chemical release by rail or tractor-trailer, which routinely pass through the center of our city.

Oklahoma City Fire Department -- G. Keith Bryant, Fire Chief

OKC is definitely in a better position to handle a major crisis today. It started for us in April 1995 with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. At that time we recognized we had a need to develop and implement a comprehensive technical rescue capability for our community. The progress that was made in this effort was very evident on May 2, 1998 when a major tornado hit our city. At that time we demonstrated our proficiency in search and rescue techniques.

In the aftermath of 9/11 we were able to use available federal funding to obtain the tools, equipment and vehicles necessary to compliment the training and education that had been previously completed.

Although we don't consider ourselves to be where we need to be, we definitely feel as if we are ahead of the curve. We realize that an act of terrorism can occur anywhere at anytime, but because of our history with violent weather, we realize the most obvious threat to our community is from super cell thunderstorms spawning major tornados that have the potential to devastate a large geographical area. This is our worst-case scenario and therefore a major focus of our planning and training.

Dallas Fire-Rescue Department -- Joel V. Lavender, Lieutenant

The Dallas Fire-Rescue Department is a team of better trained and more efficient emergency responders than we were on September 11, 2001. Since that fateful day we have enhanced our Communication Division with additional training and a new Computer Assisted Dispatch (CAD) system. Our department has continued to allow members the opportunity to attend advanced training classes related to specific specialized emergency response activities. Such coursework may include Hazardous Materials and Technical Rescue procedures. We have also improved our interoperability communications with our neighboring local, state, and federal agencies.

The Dallas Fire-Rescue Department has always been a proactive department seeking progressive and innovative ways to protect and serve our customers. With our new vision we will continue to meet challenges the future holds for our department.

San Francisco Fire Department -- Kelly Alves, Executive Secretary to the Chief of Department

"The San Francisco Fire Department is better off today handling major crisis incidents because of the unity of purpose, direction, and control mechanisms that we have put into practice with the Police Department, Public Health Department, and several other Departments that support our response to terrorist attacks, as well as natural disasters.

We prepare for the major terrorism crisis by implementing a "common operating picture" using Unified Command and pre-planned tactics, techniques, and procedures. The practice has extended to our National Guard Civil Support Team - Weapons of Mass Destruction unit from the 95th CST-WMD whereby together we share information and conduct drills for enhanced coordination and communications. It continues outward to our respective State of California Office of Emergency Services Fire and Law Enforcement Branches. The Department remains vigilant in our efforts to mitigate and prepare for any CBRNE incident."