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Emergency Management 10


Recommendations

A. Texas should require local governments to develop a Risk and Needs Assessment Capability Plan with funding contingent on the development of such a plan.

B. Texas should create 10 Hazardous Material/Weapons of Mass Destruction; Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Explosives, & Incendiaries regional response teams that could be dispatched immediately to respond to a terrorist attack.



Summary

In light of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, it is clear that no single jurisdiction can handle a major terrorist attack without mutual assistance agreements. Training, equipment and practice exercises for local governments is key to developing a statewide strategy to ensure domestic preparedness and to combat terrorism.

Communities must be required to develop plans to defend against, or respond to, terrorist attacks. The National League of Cities, for example, reports that nearly half of all communities have no plans in place for domestic preparedness.[1] Furthermore, in April of 2000, the Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP), formerly the Department of Justice’s Office for State and Local Domestic Preparedness Support (OSLDPS), published an “Assessment and Strategy Development Tool Kit,” in connection with its fiscal 1999 State Domestic Preparedness Program.

The state administrative agency for Texas is the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC), which operates under the auspices of the Texas Engineering and Extension Service (TEEX), Texas A&M University. TEEX distributed a Texas Tool Kit to 1,433 political subdivisions, which contained a Risk Assessment, and Capability and Needs document. Of the 1,433 political subdivisions in the state, approximately 456 (68% of the population) have responded to the Risk Assessment and 90 have responded to the Capability and Needs documents.[2]

Texas should create 10 Hazardous Material (HAZMAT) regional response teams trained to the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) level, which would mean the state is prepared to handle weapons of mass destruction. Each team would be made up of volunteers, who reside in each region, with the required skills and backgrounds. TEEX would be able to train each team member because TEEX staff wrote the textbooks used across the nation by both industrial HAZMAT teams and many Fire Departments.

The equipment for each team could be stored at a secure facility in the region. The recommendation for 10 HAZMAT/WMD teams is based on a 100-mile radius of where each equipment cache will be stored. This arrangement would mean that it would take no more than three hours to reach any disaster whether caused by accident or by terrorism. The 10 regions cover the entire state. In large cities such as Houston, this capability already exists although the regional teams in the area would provide additional support if needed. TEEX also should manage, train and exercise these teams under Texas Task Force I, which is at the service of Division of Emergency Management (DEM). Texas Task Force One (TX-TF1), the statewide urban search and rescue team sponsored by TEEX, is one of six teams picked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to incidents involving WMD.

Finally, the State of Texas should make local governments aware of federal and state grants that are available for disaster response training. TEEX is building a Web site for the Division of Emergency Management (DEM) that will inform local governments of existing federal and state programs that are available in the area of Domestic Preparedness.

TEEX expects to announce this new Web site in November at the Texas Terrorism Preparedness Symposium. Moreover, the Governor’s State Grants Team in the Office of Budget and Planning is working with the Department of Information Resources to develop a “Hot Button” link on Texas Online that will provide funding information opportunities. This “Hot Button” will not only provide a link to the Governor’s Grant Web page but to all Texas state agency Web sites that provide funding opportunities. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) also has selected a list of programs that may be of interest to those communities seeking assistance in dealing with the tragic events of September 11 (http://www.cfda.gov/911.htm).


Legislative Changes Required

Amend Chapter §418.101 of the Texas Government Code to require all local governments to develop a Risk and Needs Assessment Capability Plan and to submit the plan to the Texas Engineering Extension Service so Texas can develop a statewide domestic preparedness strategy.


Fiscal Impact

Requiring a Risk and Needs Assessment Capability Plan would have no fiscal impact on state or local governments because the plans could be completed with existing resources.

The estimated cost to the General Revenue Fund to implement 10 HAZMAT/WMD regional response teams would be $8,160,118 for fiscal 2004 and $956,351 for each following year.[3] Four full-time employees would be required.


[1] Laredo Morning Times, September 24, 2001.

[2] Telephone interview with Charlie Todd, director of Domestic Preparedness, Texas Extension Service, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, October 12, 2001.

[3] E-mail from Kem Bennett, director, TEEX, and director, National Emergency Response & Rescue Training Center, October 18, 2001.