The complexity, scope, and potential consequences of a terrorist threat or incident require that there be a rapid and decisive capability to resolve the situation. The resolution to an act of terrorism demands an extraordinary level of coordination of crisis and consequence management functions and technical expertise across all levels of government. No single Federal, State, or local governmental agency has the capability or requisite authority to respond independently and mitigate the consequences of such a threat to national security. The incident may affect a single location or multiple locations, each of which may be a disaster scene, a hazardous scene and/or a crime scene simultaneously.
B. Differences Between WMD Incidents and Other Incidents
As in all incidents, WMD incidents may involve mass casualties and damage to buildings or other types of property. However, there are several factors surrounding WMD incidents that are unlike any other type of incidents that must be taken into consideration when planning a response. First responders' ability to identify aspects of the incident (e.g., signs and symptoms exhibited by victims) and report them accurately will be key to maximizing the use of critical local resources and for triggering a Federal response.
1. The situation may not be recognizable until there are multiple casualties. Most chemical and biological agents are not detectable by methods used for explosives and firearms. Most agents can be carried in containers that look like ordinary items.
2. There may be multiple events (e.g., one event in an attempt to influence another event's outcome).
3. Responders are placed at a higher risk of becoming casualties. Because agents are not readily identifiable, responders may become contaminated before recognizing the agent involved. First responders may, in addition, be targets for secondary releases or explosions.
4. The location of the incident will be treated as a crime scene. As such, preservation and collection of evidence is critical. Therefore, it is important to ensure that actions on-scene are coordinated between response organizations to minimize any conflicts between law enforcement authorities, who view the incident as a crime scene, and other responders, who view it as a hazardous materials or disaster scene.
5. Contamination of critical facilities and large geographic areas may result. Victims may carry an agent unknowingly to public transportation facilities, businesses, residences, doctors' offices, walk-in medical clinics, or emergency rooms because they don't realize that they are contaminated. First responders may carry the agent to fire or precinct houses, hospitals, or to the locations of subsequent calls.
6. The scope of the incident may expand geometrically and may affect mutual aid jurisdictions. Airborne agents flow with the air current and may disseminate via ventilation systems, carrying the agents far from the initial source.
7. There will be a stronger reaction from the public than with other types of incidents. The thought of exposure to a chemical or biological agent or radiation evokes terror in most people. The fear of the unknown also makes the public's response more severe.
8. Time is working against responding elements. The incident can expand geometrically and very quickly. In addition, the effects of some chemicals and biological agents worsen over time.
9. Support facilities, such as utility stations and 911 centers along with critical infrastructures, are at risk as targets.
10. Specialized State and local response capabilities may be overwhelmed.
C. Threat Levels
The CONPLAN establishes a range of threat levels determined by the FBI that serve to frame the nature and scope of the Federal response. Each threat level provides for an escalating range of actions that will be implemented concurrently for crisis and consequence management. The Federal government will take specific actions which are synchronized to each threat level, ensuring that all Federal agencies are operating with jointly and consistently executed plans. The Federal government will notify and coordinate with State and local governments, as necessary. The threat levels are described below:
1. Level #4--Minimal Threat:
Received threats do not warrant actions beyond normal liaison notifications or placing assets or resources on a heightened alert (agencies are operating under normal day-to-day conditions).
2. Level #3--Potential Threat:
Intelligence or an articulated threat indicates a potential for a terrorist incident. However, this threat has not yet been assessed as credible.
3. Level #2--Credible Threat:
A threat assessment indicates that the potential threat is credible, and confirms the involvement of WMD in the developing terrorist incident. Intelligence will vary with each threat, and will impact the level of the Federal response. At this threat level, the situation requires the tailoring of response actions to use Federal resources needed to anticipate, prevent, and/or resolve the crisis. The Federal crisis management response will focus on law enforcement actions taken in the interest of public safety and welfare, and is predominantly concerned with preventing and resolving the threat. The Federal consequence management response will focus on contingency planning and pre-positioning of tailored resources, as required. The threat increases in significance when the presence of an explosive device or WMD capable of causing a significant destructive event, prior to actual injury or loss, is confirmed or when intelligence and circumstances indicate a high probability that a device exists. In this case, the threat has developed into a WMD terrorist situation requiring an immediate process to identify, acquire, and plan the use of Federal resources to augment State and local authorities in lessening or averting the potential consequence of a terrorist use or employment of WMD.
4. Level #1--WMD Incident:
A WMD terrorism incident has occurred which requires an immediate process to identify, acquire, and plan the use of Federal resources to augment State and local authorities in response to limited or major consequences of a terrorist use or employment of WMD. This incident has resulted in mass casualties. The Federal response is primarily directed toward public safety and welfare and the preservation of human life.
D. Lead Federal Agency Responsibilities
The LFA, in coordination with the appropriate Federal, State and local agencies, is responsible for formulating the Federal strategy and a coordinated Federal response. To accomplish that goal, the LFA must establish multi-agency coordination structures, as appropriate, at the incident scene, area, and national level. These structures are needed to perform oversight responsibilities in operations involving multiple agencies with direct statutory authority to respond to aspects of a single major incident or multiple incidents. Oversight responsibilities include:
* Coordination. Coordinate the determination of operational objectives, strategies, and priorities for the use of critical resources that have been allocated to the situation, and communicate multi-agency decisions back to individual agencies and incidents.
* Situation Assessment. Evaluate emerging threats, prioritize incidents, and project future needs.
* Public Information. As the spokesperson for the Federal response, the LFA is responsible for coordinating information dissemination to the White House, Congress, and other Federal, State and local government officials. In fulfilling this responsibility, the LFA ensures that the release of public information is coordinated between crisis and consequence management response entities. The Joint Information Center (JIC) is established by the LFA, under the operational control of the LFA's Public Information Officer, as a focal point for the coordination and provision of information to the public and media concerning the Federal response to the emergency. The JIC may be established in the same location as the FBI Joint Operations Center (JOC) or may be located at an on-scene location in coordination with State and local agencies. The following elements should be represented at the JIC: (1) FBI Public Information Officer and staff, (2) FEMA Public Information Officer and staff, (3) other Federal agency Public Information Officers, as needed, and (4) State and local Public Information Officers.