Is Your City Prepared?

A recent survey conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has revealed that some of this country’s major cities may not be prepared to handle large radiological dispersal device [RDD] and improvised nuclear device (IND) attacks. Major cities are thought to be the most likely targets of such attacks. The GAO, which is an investigative branch of Congress, recently presented the 68-page report to Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security.

The GAO concluded that many of these cities have received limited guidance from the federal government and emergency managers who were interviewed voiced a need for both technical and resource assistance from the federal government in order to be prepared in the event of an RDD attack.

The plans and reactions of first responders to the Boston Marathon attacks could be use as a model to follow in "dirty bomb" attacks. The plans and reactions of first responders to the Boston Marathon attacks could be use as a model to follow in "dirty bomb" attacks.

Emergency managers from 27 major cities took part in the study. Most of the cities had assessed what kind of risk they were at for an RDD or IND attack and ranked that risk as being lower than other hazardous risks their municipality faced. Eleven of these cities had completed RDD response plans, and eight had completed IND response plans.  Emergency managers of cities without plans in place said they would rely on their all hazards emergency operations plan or hazard management plan in the event of an attack.

Map of major cities of risk for an attack. Map of major cities at risk of an attack.

Should such an event occur, the primary responsibility for early response would fall to local government. How that response is handled in those first 24 hours is critical to the impact the actual event has on the public.

Despite the concern over the need for federal government guidance and assistance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, (FEMA), told the GAO that more guidance may not be needed because that agency expects cities to handle smaller attacks in the same way the currently handle hazardous materials spills, which is with as limited federal government assistance possible.

But GAO found that even for those cities that had some kind of IND attack plan in place, many could not move forward with any response activities without federal assistance. The agency concluded: “Effective response to an RDD or IND attack would require marshaling all available federal, state and local resources to save lives and limit economic damage.”

Their recommendation: “FEMA develop guidance to clarify the early response capabilities needed by cities” for both RDD and IND attacks.

Emergency Film Group’s Terrorism: Radiological Weapons DVD training video is part of the WMD Response Series. This program demonstrates a credible scenario in the use of a dirty bomb, consisting of explosives and radioactive materials. To learn more, read here. . .

Another program in EFG’s library, Radiation Monitoring, teaches emergency personnel in mission specific Operations Level competencies regarding monitoring for radiation at WMD events as well as natural disasters and industrial accidents. More information on this DVD can be found here. . .



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