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Local First Responders Adapting to New Terror Threats

Fairfax, Va. – Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, IAFC president and chair of the board, testified today before the U.S. Senate that the tactics deployed by terrorists have evolved since 9/11 and local first responders now must be prepared for a variety of incidents.

Kerr, a fourth-generation firefighter, testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, chaired by Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.). The hearing explored the challenges and needs of America’s first responders when responding to terror attacks on the homeland.  

“We're seeing a different terrorist threat,” said Kerr, fire chief of the Austin (Texas) Fire Department. “The incidents in Boston, Paris, Garland, Chattanooga and San Bernardino used a variety of tactics. They were carried out by lone wolves or smaller groups of individuals. They used tactics like gunfire and explosives. In some cases, they may have communicated with overseas actors. In all cases, the planning for these attacks was hard to detect.”

Kerr said America’s fire and emergency service is seeing a new terror-threat environment that uses a variety of tactics. Local fire departments are adapting so they can respond to both large-scale and localized terror threats. To prepare for this new threat environment, local departments require accurate information about threats to their jurisdictions.

“It will take a whole community effort to be prepared for these threats, which requires the active participation of all federal, state, local and private-sector stakeholders, including the American public,” Kerr said. “The federal government provides a number of opportunities for local first responders to receive the information, training, communications, planning, equipment and coordination that are required for an effective emergency response. It's important to recognize the essential role that this committee has played in improving our nation’s preparedness.”

Chief Kerr’s full written testimony is available on the IAFC website.

About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more
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