What local resources are available to assist in preparing for a large-scale disaster such as a terrorist incident?
Prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, disaster preparedness was only considered a priority in regions of the United States historically associated with natural disasters. The Gulf Coast and the southeastern region, for example, have long experienced severe weather patterns in the form of hurricanes, and have developed procedures for both preparing and responding to all but the very worst (Hurricane Katrina, for example). Similarly, the west coast, sitting atop the San Andreas fault line, has a long history of experiencing earth tremors and quakes, and has learned to prepare for the eventuality of additional such disasters.
Since the 9/11 attacks, however, disaster preparedness has become a national priority, evident in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the allocation of billions of dollars for disaster preparedness. The terrorist attacks, along with the highly-criticized federal response to Hurricane Katrina, provided the impetus for major improvements in how governments at all levels approach the threat of future crises.
Resources available to local governments and communities for disaster preparedness include the American Red Cross, which has long been at the forefront of such efforts in the United States. Children’s Disaster Services helps train school and daycare staffs, families, and others to help children through the crisis once it hits. Most churches have incorporated disaster preparedness training into their regular operations. REACT International, a network of emergency communications facilities run by civilian ham and citizens band radio operators, was established to help facilitate essential communications links in the event of a disaster, as does the American Radio Relay League. These are just a few of the nongovernmental organizations available to local communities to help in preparing for the possibility of a disaster.
At the governmental level, the Federal Emergency Management Agency website includes a link to its “Plan, Prepare and Mitigate” section, which provides information on how to prepare for emergencies, including terrorist attacks, including information on “multi-hazard mitigation planning.” In addition, FEMA’s www.ready.gov site provides useful information for communities on how to prepare for disasters. Because of the ever-present danger of disease outbreaks like cholera, and because of the threat of a biological weapons attack by terrorist organizations, the Centers for Disease Control similarly maintains a website at www.emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/. The CDC website provides information on how to prepare for the possibility of disaster-related disease outbreaks.
In addition to informational websites maintained by government agencies, many communities, cities, and states have received considerable sums of money to help them prepare for the possibility of terrorist attacks. These grants are administered through the Department of Homeland Security, and includes the installations of sensors for detecting explosives and chemical and biological agents.