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CAMBRIDGE, MA – A task force of state and local officials, law enforcement leaders, emergency responders, and Harvard researchers is outlining a series of steps public officials can take to enhance domestic preparedness for terrorism following the tragic events of Sept. 11. Two reports – one aimed at Director of the Office for Homeland Security Tom Ridge and the other intended for the nation’s governors and mayors – were released Friday, Nov. 2 at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
“These reports provide the insight of federal, state, and local officials who have been working on domestic preparedness long before Sept. 11, 2001,” said Juliette Kayyem, Executive Director of the Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness(ESDP), Kennedy School of Government. “What we want to tell mayors and governors, many of whom have never had to address terrorism before, is that they do not have to re-invent the wheel.”
“The prospect of planning for terrorist attacks on our home soil is daunting for many of us,” said Clarence Harmon, former mayor of St. Louis, Missouri and member of the ESDP. “As a former mayor and a former police chief, I can tell you that it is important to understand that we have some capabilities for fighting terrorism, but lack coordination. These reports draw upon the expertise of emergency responders, federal officials, and academics who have thoroughly researched these topics for several years.”
“Terrorism is a difficult leadership challenge because preparedness requires coordinating across a large number of agencies and introducing new operational responsibilities,” said Arnold M. Howitt, Director, ESDP, and Executive Director, Taubman Center for State and Local Government, Kennedy School.
Ellen Gordon, Iowa’s Homeland Security Advisor and ESDP member, said, “At this time in our nation it is imperative that we have intergovernmental, interagency, as well as public and private cooperation and coordination. Having well developed and prepared response systems is key to everyone’s ability to ensure that the nation is truly effective in our war on terrorism.”
Among the specific recommendations contained in the reports:
Local authorities are urged to create or support a high-level counterterrorism coordinating role to best utilize relevant resources;· Health care and emergency response systems must consider nontraditional ways to buttress medical surge capacity to handle a mass-casualty event;
Elected officials and response agencies must develop public affairs strategies to provide quick and reliable information to the public during and after a terrorist attack;
Various federal and local law enforcement officials must work closer to share crucial intelligence information with the goal of preventing a terrorist attack;
A high priority should be placed on improving both the capacity and interoperability of communications systems nationwide to function effectively in a disaster; and
Staffing, skill levels, and technological components must be improved in the public health infrastructure in order to detect and identify a bioterrorism attack and to respond and quickly mitigate the impact of an outbreak.
The reports were drafted by participants in the Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness (ESDP), at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. The Executive Session is an ongoing series of meetings and discussions concerning terrorism and emergency management, bringing together experts with operational experience in diverse professional fields related to domestic preparedness joined by faculty and affiliates of the Harvard community.
The ESDP is a resource for federal, state, and local government officials, congressional committees, and others interested in reducing the threat of terrorism and minimizing the vulnerability of democratic societies to its effects.
Participants in the Executive Session include:
Ellen Gordon, Homeland Security Advisor, State of Iowa;
Margaret Hamburg, MD Vice President for Biological Programs, Nuclear Threat Institute, Washington, D.C.;
Thomas Kinnally, Administrator, National Domestic Preparedness Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, D.C.;
Peter LaPorte, Director, District of Columbia Emergency Management Agency;
Bruce Lawlor, Commanding General, Joint Task Force-Civil Support, U.S. Joint Forces Command, Fort Monroe, Virginia; recently selected to serve as Department of Defense’s senior representative to the federal Office of Homeland Security;
Scott Lillibridge, MD, Secretary Tommy G. Thompson's Special Assistant for Bioterrorism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C.;
Jessica Stern, Lecturer in Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government.
For access to the full reports, access the Executive Session for Domestic Preparedness web site at www.esdp.org.