Imagine that you, the fire chief, get a call from the FBI advising that they have a credible threat of a terrorist attack on your community to occur within the next 24 hours. You have no question that the required response will overwhelm your resources.
What would you, your police chief and your emergency manager do first? Do you have working relationships with the officials who can provide the staffing, equipment and expertise you will need? What if a plane crashed in your jurisdiction? Or a hurricane came through? Or wildland fires began to rage?
As the nation marks the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, communities across the country are still reeling from earthquakes, wildland fires, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes. More and more catastrophic events are occurring, and they require a response that’s far beyond what one fire department can accomplish on its own.
All response begins at the local level. However, the realities of today’s world require that departments think as a matter of routine beyond their own resources and to form effective partnerships within their communities, regions, states and nation to achieve an effective level of preparedness.
You may think this is beyond your department’s abilities in terms of staff, time and funding.
However, a powerful and effective toolkit is available: Terrorism Response: A Checklist and Guide for Fire Chiefs and Community Preparedness Leaders, 3rd Edition.
The Checklist and Guide provides a clear, methodical way for fire and other community departments of all types and sizes to conduct a gap analysis and reach out to their peers
The Meaning of Preparedness
Being prepared means to compare your present departmental capabilities with what would be required in a terrorist attack or other major disaster. Any gaps identified reveal what is still needed, whether it’s equipment, training or building relationships with other departments and agencies that enable your department and community to fill these gaps.
The Checklist and Guide can help by:
- Drilling down into department operations to help with a gap analysis
- Providing steps that departments of all types and sizes can adapt to their own needs and abilities
- Providing guidance on strengthening relationships with peer departments, other public-safety disciplines and government leaders, thereby fostering a regional, state and national approach to preparedness
Updates for the Modern World
Leaders of multiple disciplines have been using the Checklist and Guide for many types of response. The members of the IAFC’s Terrorism and Homeland Security Committee, which oversees the Checklist and Guide, recognize this and strongly supportive agencies working with their partners. That’s why they updated the document for use by all community leaders to respond to all hazards.
Specifically, the third edition expands upon its predecessors in three very important ways:
- It’s now geared toward anyone involved in the preparedness process – The Checklist and Guide has garnered strong interest not only from the fire service, but also from such other entities as law-enforcement agencies, hospitals and public-health agencies, emergency-management agencies, educational facilities and training centers, and the U.S. military. Some have adapted the document to meet their specific needs; others have adapted it to meet the needs of entire community-response systems. This third edition of the Checklist and Guide is for all community-preparedness leaders to use.
- The focal point of this edition is all hazards – The Checklist and Guide can and should be used for terrorism preparedness, but it also can and should be used to prepare for all hazards. With this edition, the IAFC strongly encourages departments to apply it first to the hazards that are of greatest importance to their own communities. If preparedness leaders focus their initial gap analysis on their most critical threats, the analyses for other threats will most likely fall in line.
- Direct links to reference materials are available on the IAFC website – Subject-matter experts have provided updated reference materials, which are included in this third edition of the Checklist and Guide. In addition, the IAFC website has a section dedicated to these references, with live links that take users directly to the requested materials. The IAFC will maintain these materials over time as preparedness and response efforts continue to evolve and new lessons learned emerge.
The attacks of 9/11 challenged our fiber as Americans and our abilities as responders. Since then, a series of megacatastrophes has forced us to reevaluate the elements of an effective response. In short, it requires cooperation at all levels.
Be prepared. Download Terrorism Response: A Checklist and Guide for Fire Chiefs and Community Preparedness Leaders, use it, share it and let us know what you think.
Holly Gray Stearns is a former IAFC government relations manager and liaison to the Terrorism and Homeland Security Committee from 2004-2006. She has worked on the Checklist and Guide since 2007, helping to draft it and edit subsequent editions, manage the pilot testing phase and roll it out nationwide.