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IAFC President: First Responders Must Be Prepared for Chemical Weapons Threat

Fairfax, Va. – Fire Chief G. Keith Bryant, IAFC president and chairman of the board, testified before a U.S. House of Representatives panel today that violent extremists would like to use chemical weapons in terrorist attacks within the United States and that local emergency responders must be prepared with assistance from the federal government.

“This is an active and realistic threat for which local first responders must be prepared,” said Bryant, fire chief of the Oklahoma City Fire Department. “Toxic industrial chemicals, such as chlorine, compounds containing cyanide, and anhydrous ammonia, are readily available and present in the nation’s transportation system and at chemical facilities.”

Bryant appeared before the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications of the Committee on Homeland Security, chaired by Rep. Martha McSally (Ariz.).

Bryant testified that while the initial response would primarily involve local first responders, the federal government has a large role to play in any successful response to a terrorist attack using chemicals.

“One major role for the federal government is providing important threat information to local first responders,” Bryant said. “Considering the myriad potential threats and the budgetary constraints of local governments, local first responders need to know for which threats they should prepare.

“The federal government provides a number of critical resources to help state and local agencies, including planning resources, training opportunities, and material support through funding,” Bryant said. “As federal, state, and local governments address tightening budget capabilities, we must focus on remaining prepared to protect our citizens from this pernicious threat.”

Read Chief Bryant’s full testimony (pdf).

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