I attended a meeting of the 9/11 Commission in New York City recently. At the meeting both the Commission staff and Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, recommended that NFPA 1600, Disaster Recovery, Emergency Management, and Business Continuity Programs, be adopted as the National Emergency Preparedness Standard.
This is just the latest in a long line of activities in which we've been involved to help protect the nation from terrorist attacks. Just a few months ago, the Department of Homeland Security adopted five NFPA Personal Protective Equipment Standards to ensure that first responders are safe when called to answer an emergency. NFPA worked on the initial investigation of the World Trade Center collapse to incorporate lessons from that disaster to make buildings safer. We provided our HAZMAT standards to fire departments free on the Internet after the anthrax scare and trained hundreds of building managers in proper evacuation techniques in the months after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
The employees of the Department of Homeland Security, state and local officials, fire and police departments, the private sector and other organizations have expended enormous amounts of time, money and attention in dealing with the terrorist threat since the day of the attacks. And yet one has the nagging sense, borne out by considerable empirical data, that we haven't as a nation, done nearly enough to prepare for the next attack.
Even using the words "next attack" is probably seen by some as being unnecessarily alarmist, but serious people who spend their lives tracking terrorist activity tell us that another attempt to inflict massive damage on America and its allies is inevitable. The Madrid bombings could be a harbinger of a new wave of terrorist activity. It is not alarmist to point out the obvious but it is wildly imprudent not to prepare based on a reasonable assessment of the evidence before us.
As President of NFPA, I speak to people all over America who represent our vast constituency. None of these people have told me, since 9/11 that we are prepared or even that we are close to getting there. Fire chiefs and firefighters from all across the country, from larger communities and smaller ones, describe resources that are stretched way too thin to respond adequately to a cataclysmic event. Business people too often show a "business as usual" attitude that fails to give serious attention to the important steps necessary to continue operations after an attack. Many property owners resist even basic exercises like evacuation drills, and too many government officials, who talk a good game, flinch when it comes to making the tough decisions to make necessary resources available.
In this election year, all of us should be asking our elected officials to tell us in detail their views on how vulnerable to attack America is today and to give us their plans on how we might better prepare. As we approach the third anniversary of 9/11, I cannot imagine any more important debate.
We are going to do more too. First, we are going to continue as an advocate for more resources for first responders around the nation. The needs assessment that NFPA completed for the U.S. Fire Administration a year and a half ago starkly documented those needs.
We intend to work hard promoting NFPA 1600 on Capitol Hill, with press events and by providing training.
We will continue to use the Internet to provide important safety material to emergency responders and the public.
We will do everything we can to assist the national effort to defend against terrorism in what is sure to be a long battle.
At NFPA, our purpose has always been to protect public safety and we will continue to sound the alarm in Washington, the state capitols and in cities and towns across America for the kinds of emergency preparedness policies that match the seriousness of the threat.
James M. Shannon, President and CEO
In this Section:
Designing seaport fire detection and notification
2003 NFPA Treasurer's Report
Tour bus fire injures two passengers
Standards that match the seriousness of the threat
Sprinkler protection for swimming pool chemicals
Code compliance begins with understanding
|Ins and Outs
NFPA strengthens its maritime partnerships
|On the Agenda
Begin your professional development planning
Life-safety messages linked to FIRE Act funding
Safety begins with training, pre-incident planning