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...


We have standardized joint operations with the Columbus Police, Ohio Highway Patrol, Franklin County Sheriff, the Airport Authority, the Ohio State University, and the Army 52nd Weapons Of Mass Destruction/Civil Support Group for such events as OSU home football games and other major events requiring heightened security. Our Bomb Squad Captain recently traveled to the NCAA Southeast Conference specifically to share operational planning on how we handle the football games and other significant events.

We have members of CFD serving in the local Terrorism Early Warning Center, attached to the local FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), serving with the Franklin County (structural) Collapse Team, as well as Ohio Task Force -1, one of 28 DHS/FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Teams.

I realize the question was directed to us as a fire department, and new equipment is a part of that, but enhanced training, and joint operations with a cooperative attitude have significantly increased our terrorism response capability.

Obviously Ohio State University has some research labs that could cause us some problems, as does Battelle Research Institute. We have identified all of the threats in our community and are in the process of working with the owners to develop a response plan for each business on the target capability list.

Phoenix Fire Department -- Mike Sandulak, Division Chief

The Phoenix Fire Department is in a better position to handle a major crisis today as it was five years ago because we have had a great deal of additional training on WMD, we have hired more Firefighters, have more resources, and opened more fire stations. We have also established an enhanced relationship with the Phoenix Police Department and made a joint Homeland Defense Bureau. We have Terrorist Liaison Officers (Police and Fire officers that respond to suspected terrorist acts, meth labs, white powder calls, bomb threats etc.), and more trained CERT volunteers. We have also put into service two Heavy Rescues (soon to be three) that were implemented into the statewide Heavy Rescue response system after 911.

A worst case scenario for us would be any act against our Firefighters.

Charlotte (NC) Fire Department -- Chief Luther L. Fincher Jr.

We are in a much better position to handle a major crisis today than five years ago. The new anti terrorism training, Cooperation, Collaboration, Coordination and Communication between all first responders (EMS, Law Enforcement, Public Health, Hospitals, Emergency Management and Fire Service, State and Federal HLS) in our region, Unified Incident Command, NIMS, training of the other disciplines that support everything we do and the Advanced Local Emergency Response Teams (ALERT) we have in place today make us much better prepared.

Our worst case scenario could be one of several things, dirty bomb, a catastrophic disaster i.e.. 10 kilo ton nuclear device setoff in downtown or a case of bioterrorism. The critical evacuations that may have to take place will require thousands of hospital beds and they simply aren't available. The least expected maybe our worst, Pandemic Flu if the predictions hold true and 40% of our response staff are unable to report to work.

LAS VEGAS FIRE & RESCUE -- TIMOTHY R. SZYMANSKI, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER

In the Las Vegas Valley we are much more prepared. The five fire departments that make up the Las Vegas Valley (Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City and Clark County) operate on an automatic aid principal, basically meaning there are no boundaries or first due areas. Which ever unit is closest to the incident when the alarm is received, it is dispatched to the call. During the past five years, some of the major improvements include; all departments now operate a new mobile command unit; all firefighters are issued portable radios. All fire and EMS radios operate on the same 800 MHz system which means any firefighter, from any department can talk to anyone else. Private ambulance services, local hospitals and airports are also on the system. There are limited capabilities with the police, but with a new radio system they are working on, they will also be part of the system. We now have multi-channels and TAC channels giving us many options when using communications.

Interagency cooperation is excellent at the federal, state, county and local level. When large activities are held in the Valley, at least one of the emergency operations centers are used staffed by all agencies, which gives us a chance to work together and know one another.