Disasters such as the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings caused Americans to realize that terrorist attacks no longer are limited to countries on the other side of the globe. Americans also have become aware that terrorist attacks are not always delivered by conventional means. The threat of chemical or biological terrorism is now a real concern. How will we respond if this threat becomes a reality?
In an effort to equip the Nation to guard against and respond to domestic terrorism, Congress passed the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996 (commonly called the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici bill). This bill provided funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) to augment the capabilities of Federal, state, and local agencies to respond to incidents involving nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) terrorism.
The Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is the center of much of DOD's chemical and biological expertise. As such, it has developed a comprehensive homeland defense program to assist DOD and other Federal, state, and local emergency responders. Several initiatives comprise the program.
SBCCOM's Domestic Preparedness Program originally included six "train- the-trainer" courses that were designed to educate city emergency personnel: Emergency Responder Awareness, Emergency Responder Operations, Technician-HAZMAT [hazardous materials], Technician-Emergency Medical Services, Hospital Provider, and Incident Command. SBCCOM also offered a Basic Awareness Course for those working in or near a potential target area and a Senior Officials Workshop for city leaders.
These courses were coordinated with city officials by an interagency team comprising representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and DOD. Team members explained their role and capabilities to cities desiring training. The city officials then scheduled the courses they felt were best suited to their communities. To reinforce the training and allow the cities to evaluate and enhance their response plans, the teams often conducted chemical tabletop exercises immediately following the training courses and biological tabletop and chemical functional exercises after 6 months or so had passed. These exercises enabled the communities to train their response personnel, update their plans with the information gained during the training, and test their plans.
The ultimate goal of the Domestic Preparedness Program is to train instructors in 120 cities across the nation. In October 2000, after more than 28,500 potential instructors in 105 cities were trained and biological tabletop and chemical functional exercises were conducted in 68 of those cities, responsibility for this program was transferred to the Department of Justice.
|Members of a weapons of mass destruction civil support team wear protective equipment while training at Fort Leonard Wood.|
To help communities identify ways to improve their response to biological weapons (BW) incidents, a Biological Weapons Improved Response Program team, led by SBCCOM, developed a BW response template. This template portrays the concepts and specific activities that a community should consider when evaluating its own emergency preparedness plans. It can be used to prepare plans for responding to BW incidents or to major disease outbreaks that occur naturally.
The template is included in the "1998 Summary Report on BW Response Template and Response Improvements, Volumes 1 and 2." This report also contains proposed timelines and projected personnel and resources needed for each response activity. A brief form of the template can be found in an SBCCOM-prepared interim planning guide entitled "Improving Local and State Agency Response to Terrorist Incidents Involving Biological Weapons," which is available on line at http://www2.sbccom.army.mil/hld.
The Chemical Weapons (CW) Improved Response Program is a long-term approach to high-priority needs of responders at the scene of a chemical weapons deployment. The program involves operational and scientific research conducted through workshops, scientific investigations, and functional exercises that develop, test, and validate CW incident response procedures. Representatives of local, state, and Federal government agencies; law enforcement officers; firefighters; emergency medical technicians; emergency management professionals; and members of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve participate in this program.
To complement the CW Improved Response Program, SBCCOM published "Guidelines for Mass Casualty Decontamination During a Terrorist Chemical Agent Incident." This publication can be obtained from the SBCCOM web site at http://www2.sbccom.army.mil/hld.
The responsibility for the civilian BW and CW Improved Response Programs was transferred to the Department of Justice on 1 October 2000. However, DOD retained responsibility for the Military Improved Response Program and now is focused on improving the capabilities of military responders and response units. SBCCOM and the Department of Justice will coordinate their respective improved response program efforts. Mutual aid by military and civilian responders is key to successful response to an incident involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
While implementing the Domestic Preparedness Program, SBCCOM recognized a need for similar training at military bases and facilities. The WMD Installation Preparedness (IP) Program was developed to meet this need.
The IP Program outlines a comprehensive process for preparing U.S. military installations to respond to asymmetric attacks involving NBC warfare agents, mitigate the impact of the attacks on operations, and restore vital mission capabilities. The process consists of eight separate components: command and staff workshops, baseline assessments, training, planning workshops, technical assistance, chemical and biological weapons tabletop exercises, and chemical weapons field exercises. The program is conducted by mobile teams that go to the installation, thus promoting synergy and interoperability among the military and civilian responders on the installation, as well as with mutual aid counterparts in the local, state, Federal, and host nation communities. The program can be delivered in its entirety or in modules, depending on each installation's requirements. More information on the program components is available on line at http://www2.sbccom.army.mil/hld.
The IP Program was piloted at Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina. The result was a significant increase in the installations' NBC terrorism awareness and preparedness.
Recognizing that buildings and fixed sites are potential targets for NBC WMD, SBCCOM established the Technical Assistance Team (TAT) as part of its Homeland Defense Business Unit at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground-Edgewood Area. The primary missions of the TAT are fixed site and building protection; equipment evaluation; NBC testing; and customized rapid prototyping (construction of design solutions and pre-prototypes to meet customer needs).
The TAT provides varied levels of tailored service to assist customers in protecting their buildings or fixed sites. Upon request, the team can
The TAT also performs evaluations of commercial detection systems and protective equipment for first responders to NBC incidents and provides independent and unbiased assessments. Results of the TAT's testing are posted on the Homeland Defense web site at http://www2.sbccom.army.mil/hld. The TAT conducts performance evaluations of first responder equipment, along with protective equipment from the military services, in simulated chemical agent environments. Equipment ranging in scope from single-person protective suits to the M1 Abrams tank has been evaluated in a simulation chamber. The TAT also coordinates training for first responders at the simulation chamber to demonstrate the complexities and unique concerns associated with handling NBC incidents.
The TAT offers basic and advanced training on the potential characteristics of WMD dissemination devices for personnel from the senior to the first responder levels. Simulated training devices sometimes are fabricated to provide realism during training exercises. ALOG
Through its past and continuing educational outreach programs, SBCCOM is helping the Nation prepare to react quickly and effectively to possible terrorist chemical and biological attacks. For more information, call (410) 436-3674 or visit the Homeland Defense web site at http://www2.sbccom.army.mil/hld.
-Story by Janice L. Simmons
The staff of Army Logistician thanks the Homeland Defense Business Unit of the Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground-Edgewood Area, Maryland, for providing material for this article.