Ridge Completes National Response Plan

Ridge Completes National Response Plan

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge unveiled the completed National Response Plan at a Jan. 6 press conference at the National Governor’s Association in Washington, D.C. The NRP is the centerpiece of DHS efforts to improve the management of large-scale domestic emergencies, or “incidents of national significance,” to use the term coined within the NRP.

“With the National Response Plan our nation and its federal, state, local and tribal response communities now have a comprehensive, all-hazards tool for domestic incident management across the spectrum of prevention, preparedness, response and recovery,” said Ridge. “The complex and emerging threats of the 21st century demand this synchronized and coordinated plan in order to adequately protect our nation and its citizens.”

Underpinned by the National Incident Management System released in March 2004, the plan is a product of collaborative efforts of experts from federal departments and agencies, state, local, and tribal officials, incident response and private sector committees from around the nation. Chief John Buckman of the German Township (Ind.) Volunteer Fire Department served on the DHS State, Local and Tribal Advisory Council, representing the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

“This document recognizes the critical role the fire service has always performed and therefore it maintains that integrity by retaining the Emergency Support Functions documents that support the body of the NRP. The ESF should be familiar to local fire chiefs as these documents lay out the roles and responsibilities for the fire service,” said Buckman.

Bill Killen, IAFC second vice president, also represented the IAFC at NRP project meetings. Killen called the documents “ground-breaking tools that will unify the emergency services communities in preparing and planning prior to major incidents.”

The federal organizations are to implement NRP by April 2005. DHS is pushing the NRP to the state level and state will support training at the local level. A series of 30 online courses in various aspects of the NRP are going up at the U.S. Fire Administration’s Emergency Management Institute.

The plan fulfills a requirement in Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5, providing a core operational plan for all national incident management. Supported by the National Incident Management System DHS established in March 2004, the NRP will supersede the Initial National Response Plan, the Federal Response Plan, the U.S. Government Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan and the Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan.

While the National Response Plan places an emphasis on local response, it also sets up mechanisms to swiftly deliver federal support in response to catastrophic incidents.

“I believe the NRP is a leadership document for fire officials,” Buckman said. “It’s an opportunity for the fire service to become leaders in helping their communities plan for, prepare for and respond to disasters on the local level,” Buckman said. “Local government officials are looking to somebody to provide that leadership, and I believe that fire chiefs have the ability to do that. I believe this document provides them with a tool to help them better prepare their communities to respond to disasters.”

DHS is providing more information to first responders and incident management authorities on the NRP via a toll-free hotline, 800-368-6498 (8 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST). Copies of the NRP in PDF format, as well as fact sheets and other supporting resources, are available at www.dhs.gov/nationalresponseplan.

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