Edited Version of July 15, 1998
EIIP Virtual Forum Panel Discussion
"Terrorism. Are We Prepared?
A Strategic Policy and Planning Symposium for Ohio"
Dr. Annemarie Scarisbrick-Hauser
Associate Director, Institute for Policy Studies
University of Akron, Ohio
Thomas W. Rice
Director, Department of Public Safety
City of Columbus, Ohio
J. R. Thomas, CEM
Director, Emergency Management Agency
Franklin County, Ohio
The original transcript of the July 15, 1998 online Virtual Forum Panel Discussion is available on the EIIP Virtual Forum (http://www.emforum.org). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each were deleted but content of discussion, questions, and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the presenter to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning. Related questions and discussion from the Virtual Forum immediately following the presentation are included in the edited transcript.
Andy Miller: I'm Andy Miller, Portage County EMA Director in Ohio and todays moderator. Welcome to the Virtual Forum Panel Discussion
Before we begin, the order of our discussion is, approximately 30 minutes of questions to our panel and 30 minutes of Q&A from the audience. When we are ready for questions, you will be reminded how to indicate you have a question so we can conduct the Q&A in an orderly manner.
Our topic today is the Ohio Symposium on Terrorism: "Are you Prepared?" On May 27th & 28th a symposium on terrorism (by invitation only) was held at Akron University; sponsored by the University, Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA), and the county EMAs adjacent to Akron: Medina, Portage, Stark and Summit. "This Symposium will assist Ohio in continuing its proactive posture in preparing for potential disasters, to include acts of terrorism."
Andy Miller: First, I would like to ask Dr. Hauser: Can you give us an overview of the symposium and why Akron University sponsored this event?
Annemarie Hauser: Thanks, Andy. This is my first activity in a chat room. So bear with the cumbersome nature of my presentation. The first point I would like to deal with is the symposium. As I am sure you all know there is a BIG difference between a Symposium and a Conference. Naturally organizing a conference is easier so we decided to do a symposium.
Basically a symposium is designed to focus attention on audience inclusion and participation. On May 27 and 28 we gathered over 200 people representing as many areas in disaster and emergency management, from national, regional, and county-wide areas, in Ohio.
We tried to provide information for those who work in the areas of response, investigation, threat response, health / welfare and business recovery. The presenters did a wonderful job and the audience participated aggressively and we have been told and have heard that this is the way to go in the future.
As to why the university got involved in the sponsorship of this event --- David Hoover and Nancy Grant, faculty at UA, have been active in this field for many years and a discussion started with A. K. Miller, Portage EMA; Ed Cox, Stark EMA; and Buck Adams, Medina EMA; on how to get some communication going about preparedness for terrorism across the state.
I was asked to get involved because I coordinate a funding program, the Urban University Program (UUP), that brings together the resources and expertise of the eight (8) Ohio urban universities. And it became obvious very quickly that this idea of preparedness for terrorism was a local/regional/statewide issue all at once. The Director of our UUP program, Jesse Marquette, immediately decided to sponsor the event.
To talk about some of the attendees at the symposium --- All branches of FEMA terrorism response units were represented except the CIA. Emergency managers and emergency response administrators.
Andy Miller: Have you determined yet whether you will repeat this symposium next year?
Annemarie Hauser: We are not sure about organizing the conference again. We were asked at the symposium to do so, but remember there were nine partners and it took about 15 months to organize this event. If people are interested in such meetings, we will assist in whatever way we can.
Andy Miller: Thank you, Annie.
Andy Miller: I understand the City of Columbus recently went through terrorism training; Tom, please share some of your experience with us. How / why was Columbus chosen for the training?
Tom Rice: Answering the second part of the question first. Columbus was chosen along with the first 27 major cities under the Nunn/Lugar/Domenici Act based on population. Columbus, Ohio is the 16th largest City in the U.S. Training was provided to Columbus by CBDCOM (Chemical/Biological Defense Command). And the contract company (RPI) was excellent.
Mayor Greg Lashutka made the decision early on in the year to approach the training from a regional basis. We involved the county, state and local departments in all of the planning and execution of operations on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and other emergency response was enhanced throughout the region.
Andy Miller: How will you keep your records of instructors, students and equipment?
Tom Rice: The Columbus Division of Police has developed a computer program to track the students, instructors and equipment purchased from a loan of $280 thousand received by the City under the WMD program.
Andy Miller: Next J. R. Thomas, CEM, Director Franklin County EMA. J. R., you are the Emergency Management Director for Franklin County in which Columbus is located. What is your role in regard to the terrorism training and planning?
JR Thomas: Our agency has been coordinating with Director Rice's office, the Columbus Divisions of Fire and Police, suburban fire and law enforcement and the city and county health departments, to provide a cadre of trainers that can provide instruction to anyone in the county that needs it. We will also begin a planning process that will include all possible emergency responders and support agencies to provide a coordinated response.
Andy Miller: What is the status of the County / City planning for terrorist incidents?
JR Thomas: We are in the very beginning of planning for a terrorist incident. However, hazardous material, radiological and mass casualty plans have been in place for some time. We will use these documents as the groundwork to build upon. All of these plans have been exercised and modified over the years but there is a need to add various components such as; evidence collection, mass contaminated casualties, media information, and hospital emergency department security.
Andy Miller: Have you conducted or plan to conduct exercises with terrorism scenarios?
JR Thomas: Part of the WMD process delivered by the Department of Defense is to provide exercises to evaluate training. Our next functional exercise will occur in the first week of December. The scenario and details will be worked out within the next month through an exercise committee composed of EMA, safety department, fire, law enforcement and health. We do know that this will be a hands-on field exercise.
Andy Miller: I would like to ask the next questions to each of our panelists from their own perspectives. What is next for Columbus, the County, and the State? Is there additional training or exercises scheduled? Tom, J. R.?
JR Thomas: We will continue to work with the city and suburban entities to train the basics and continue to ask tough questions in order to proceed.
Tom Rice: As J. R. pointed out for Columbus our next exercise will be a functional, the following exercise will be a biological table top after 1/1/99.
Andy Miller: Do any of you have recommendations for other states or communities after your experience with the Ohio symposium and the threat specific training and planning in your area? Annie?
Annemarie Hauser: I was not prepared for the positive feedback that occurred during and after the symposium. It seemed like everyone appreciated the opportunity to talk WITH others and not be talked at. Anyone else notice this?
JR Thomas: You have to know the right questions to ask. We are still in the stage of figuring out those questions, like: how do you control hundreds of people that want to get in to an emergency department at the same time?
Annemarie Hauser: Some of our presenters loved this format and New York City has asked for assistance with doing something like this? The networking was incredible even among the presenters.
Tom Rice: Five or six major cities in Ohio will have the same, or better training in the next year. The key is awareness, communication with and assistance from the cities that have had the training and secured the necessary equipment.
Andy Miller: Thank you panelists. We will now open the floor for Q&A with the audience. :To keep order, please type in a question mark (?) and wait to be recognized. Please compose your question and wait for recognition before sending it to our panelists.
Joe Fletcher: Was there any National Guard involvement?
Andy Miller: Tom or JR?
JR Thomas: We have been in discussion with the Guard since we first found out about the terrorism training. They were instrumental in helping us evaluate the county for possible targets.
Anne Marie Hauser: The National Guard provided two speakers and an overview of their mandate to respond in the event of a terrorist threat or act. I forgot to mention that the Symposium was arranged for the benefit of the OHIO Senior Interagency Coordinating Group who will develop a statewide response plan over the next few months.
Tom Rice: The National Guard was involved in the Columbus Training and the exercise on Friday, the last day.
Andy Miller: Tom we have heard about Metropolitan Medical Strike Teams (MMST). Will Columbus have a MMST?
Tom Rice: Right. We have secured a grant for the MMST and Bill Myers, Health Director, is leading this effort. The MMST funding was $10 million of the $50 million in the Nunn Lugar Act for domestic training.
Andy Miller: Are there any other questions for our panelists?
Kathy Wood: Not a question, just some additional information. The State's Senior Interagency Coordination Group (SICG), is composed of numerous State Agencies that would be active in a terrorist event. Their purpose is to explain resources, coordinate efforts, give guidance, identify needs and provide technical assistance. Their mission is to prepare for terrorist use of Weapons of Mass Destruction and coordinate response and recovery efforts.
Annemarie Hauser: Thanks, Kathy, I got tangled up in someone elses response. My question -- I am concerned, as a sociologist, by the recent portrayal of emergency response folks in movies, particularly in those topic areas of tropical diseases, and natural disasters. Is there a national expert on media management, so that EMA directors and their staff would not constantly be presented as heavy handed thugs ready to do whatever it takes? This is how people see EMA responses to disasters.
JR Thomas: I think a more important problem is that the general public may expect too much of EMA personnel because of what they see in the movies, e.g Tommy Lee Jones in "Volcano".
Annemarie Hauser: That's a great point.
Kathy Wood: I have to agree with J. R., the public in general believes what they see in the movies. We need to build our own reputations based on our response to our local disasters, and educate our residents to what we can , will, and should do.
Andy Miller: What funding, if any, has Columbus received to assist with the training and equipment for response to Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)?
Tom Rice: Columbus will receive $350 thousand for MMST and $300 thousand for training and equipment.
Andy Miller: If there are no other formal questions I would like to thank our panelists and invite everyone to move to the Virtual Forum. I am going to cut and paste the response to 2 questions from the State and will join you soon.
Dale Shipley, State Director of Ohio EMA, was unable to join us today due to the flooding in 24 counties. But I will share the response by Rich Roman, Director of Operations and Training Ohio EMA, to the questions posed to the State.
Andy Miller: How is the State of Ohio preparing for Terrorism?
Rich Roman: The State of Ohio is preparing for Terrorism Incidents in several ways.
We are addressing the issue of planning for terrorism by creating an EOP Annex for this threat specifically and developing the guidance for counties to use for counter-terrorism planning. The State has created a Senior Interagency Coordination Group (SICG), composed of numerous State Agencies that would be active in a terrorist event.
Andy Miller: Purpose ?
Rich Roman: The purpose of the Senior Interagency Coordinating Group is to explain resources, coordinate efforts, give guidance, identify needs and provide technical assistance.
Andy Miller: Mission statement ?
Rich Roman: Prepare for terrorist use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and coordinate response and recovery efforts.
Andy Miller: What is the status of planning and training in Ohio to prepare counties, cities, and communities for the possibility of terrorist incidents?
Rich Roman: In order to better prepare counties, cities, and communities for terrorist events, we are currently offering specific training through Course G357, Emergency Response to a Criminal / Terrorist Incident.
This one-day course is designed to increase local emergency responders' abilities to preserve evidence while performing rescue and fire suppression activities; foster a cooperative working relationship when working together in responding to criminal incidents; and prepared for incidents when federal responders are involved. Increased safety awareness by describing hazards that may exist at crime scenes is also addressed.
This course uses a combination of instructor-led discussions, videotape presentations, and concludes with an exercise. Primary target audience is local emergency responders, to include: firefighters, emergency medical providers, public works officials, law enforcement officers, and other emergency management personnel. It is critical to have a mix of law enforcement and non-law enforcement responders participating in this course.
We also plan to distribute the "Basic Guidance for Counter-Terrorism Planning" document. This document provides guidance for governments and their agencies, based upon existing organizational documents and plans of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, the Incident Command System, Nuclear Power Plant Emergency Response Plans, as well as, the Federal Response Plan, Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan, and agency plans for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Energy. It forms the basis for developing specific plans and procedures for responding to a wide range of terrorist incidents.
By carrying out the planning responsibilities outlined in this plan, agencies of government fulfill their obligations to protect public safety, public and private properties, and the environment.
All levels of government with their agencies and offices are encouraged to use this guidance to enhance their readiness capabilities.
It is our intent to create a reference library of pertinent terrorism information that will be made available to all counties for their use in planning, responding, exercising, and training for terrorist incidents.
The State will also facilitate the sharing of information learned through the major city training that is taking place in Ohio's six (6) designated cities.
If you have any further questions feel free to contact Herbert Marshal at the Ohio Emergency Management Agency; extension (614) 889-7162.
Virtual Forum Audience Questions
Isabel McCurdy: Just waiting for our panelists to join us. Thank you panelists for an excellent presentation. Waiting for Annie.
Annemarie Hauser: Did I get here?
Isabel McCurdy: Thank you all. <clap, clap> You are here, Annie. Thank you all for your patience. Andy's first time as moderator. Annie, can you elaborate more on the positive feedback?
Annemarie Hauser: Okay, at least two of the presenters indicated that the format of interactive questions and answers gave them an opportunity to problem-solve with the audience and they liked that. The audience members indicated that they liked being able to bring the focus of the discussion to their own situations and to get immediate feedback.
Cindy Rice: Dealing with the issue of terrorism, any idea on how the general public's perception of it and how to cope with it is coming along?
JR Thomas: You have to deal with two diverse issues: It can not and will not happen here and those that see a terrorist around every corner. We have tried to keep the media involved in order to assure the public that we are not expecting a incident but we are doing all we can to prepare just the same.
Cindy Rice: But hasn't the general population since the various bombing in the US become more aware that if they live in a big city, near a military installation or technological center that that may be possible? Or am I off on a tangent?
Annemarie Hauser: It is important to let those who are experts communicate the low level of threat to the public and I agree with the need to keep the media involved. This over the top coverage of incidents has to be mediated somehow.
JR Thomas: We do have some concerns from the public about where they live or work. And not just from terrorism. But we have to do our best to be honest in how likely an incident will occur in that specific facility. The odds are very low.
That does not mean that we should or would ignore those concerns. We conduct about 7 or 8 exercises a year in various locations to stay sharp and to reassure the public we will do the best job possible if it happens.
Annemarie Hauser: When I was a child I remember all the talk about going into bunkers and radiation tablets, etc. It is almost the same fear of this kind of threat. Well, that threat has become minor and Oklahoma increased the awareness that an incident can happen. I am Irish, born and reared in that country. I lived in the North for some years and my personal level of awareness of the threat of an incident is different in Ireland. I feel safe in the States.
Cindy Rice: Were there selected individuals representing business such as hospitals which would respond to a terrorism incident if there were medical situations?
JR Thomas: I'm not as up-to-date on the medical side but the local health departments are working with local hospitals. The state and the federal department of Health and Human Services are to provide training and have adequate stores of medicines available.
Kathy Wood: I remember that there are additional cities in Ohio that will be participating as Columbus did, and that the 'lessons learned' will be shared with the non-participating communities, as well. In turn, this will further the education of the general public through its elected officials and their local EMAs.
Andy Miller: I'd like to thank everyone for the participation and for the help as I fumbled my way along. Annie, J. R., you were great, thanks!
Annemarie Hauser: You are welcome, thanks for your patience.
JR Thomas: Thanks Andy.
Mark Wood: Thanks Andy, very interesting.
Kathy Wood: Andy, thank you for the opportunity, you did a good job for a first timer!
Isabel McCurdy: <clap, clap, Andy>
Andy Miller: Thanks Isabel.