3 August 2008
Role in Counterterrorism
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Kyle Dabruzzi
About the Authors
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is the vice
president of research at the Foundation for
Defense of Democracies (FDD). He has also conducted
law-enforcement training for the U.S. Department
of Homeland Security and local agencies, and
has served as a subject-matter expert on terrorism
for the U.S. Department of States office
of antiterrorism assistance.
Gartenstein-Ross has appeared on academic and
policy panels at the Los Angeles Police Departments
Joint Regional Intelligence Conference, the
Cato Institute, and elsewhere. In addition to
authoring My Year Inside Radical Islam (Tarcher/Penguin
2007), he has written on the global war on terror
for Readers Digest, Middle East
Quarterly, The Wall Street Journal Europe,
Commentary, Middle East Times,
The Weekly Standard, and The Dallas
Morning News. He was a commercial litigator
at the law firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner,
in New York, N.Y., and a law clerk to Judge
Harry T. Edwards of the United States Court
of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2002-2003.
He earned a J.D. from the New York University
School of Law, where he was a member of the
Law Review, and a B.A. from Wake Forest
Kyle Dabruzzi worked on this paper while
he was a research associate at the Foundation
for Defense of Democracies (FDD) He has written
for such publications as Middle East Quarterly,
National Review Online, and the Daily
Standard. Dabruzzi received a B.A. from
Wake Forest University in 2006.
The Manhattan Institute has also published
the authors monograph, The Convergence
of Crime and Terror: Law Enforcement Opportunities
and Perils (2007).
The 9/11 attacks sounded an alarm in fire departments
across the country: suddenly, they would need
to decide whether they had a role to play in
preparing for, and preventing, terrorist attacks.
A growing number of fire departments concluded
that they did, and are now leveraging their
existing capabilities to enhance the effectiveness
of local counterterrorism operations. State
and local political leaders should encourage
this trend; rather than relinquishing counterterrorism
to local law enforcement and the federal government,
they should seek to integrate their fire departments,
which have unique capabilities for safeguarding
the homeland, into overall security planning.
Such integration should improve public safety
across the board.
Nationally, fire departments have impressive
manpower and capabilities. According to the
National Fire Protection Association, total
employment in firefighting occupations was 1,141,900
in 2006, of which more than 823,950 were part-time
volunteers. Of the 30,635
fire departments in the United States, 4,052
are career departments, while 26,583 are mostly
staffed by volunteers. Firefighters are frequently
the first personnel at the scene of an accident
or medical emergency, where they perform a wide
range of vital functions. Locations range from
residential neighborhoods to airports, chemical
plants, grasslands, and forests.
Many of the core competencies that fire departments
draw on in responding to, mitigating, and preventing
natural or man-made disasters can be directed
toward preventing terrorist incidents. For example,
the Fire Department of the City of New York
(FDNY) enforces compliance with fire prevention
codes and conducts more than 400,000 building
inspections each year.
These activities put it in a unique position
to notice signs that a violent attack is being
Every firefighter is by law a peace officer
and duty-bound to report anything unseemly that
he or she comes across.
However, a role in intelligence-gathering beyond
identifying actual and potential hazards would
represent an expansion of fire departments
traditional mission. With their access to private
property, their contacts in the local community,
and the levels of trust they enjoy there, firefighters
can do more than simply identify prospectively,
or respond to, situations posing physical danger.
They can actually gather, make sense of, and
report on circumstances that might hint at terrorist
involvement and intent, helped in part by community
networks they construct to recognize risks.
But if they assume this new mission, they must
be wary of encroaching on traditional law-enforcement
functions, avoid violating citizens civil
liberties and retain the trust they now enjoy.
In any event, a new relationship with law-enforcement
and intelligence agencies would have to be forged.
There is every reason to think that fire departments
can operate effectively within such constraints.
FIRE DEPARTMENTS CORE
At first glance, fire departments are focused
on the core competencies of prevention, protection,
and response to natural and man-made disasters
and other emergencies. For example, in a recent
strategic document, the FDNY identified its
core competencies as fire suppression, pre-hospital
emergency medical care, structural evacuation,
search and rescue, dealing with chemical, biological,
radiological, and nuclear hazardous materials
(CBRN/hazmat), life safety, decontamination,
and arson investigationall of which it
characterizes as response-oriented.
However, a closer inspection reveals that these
core competencies also position fire departments
to perform preventive functions. These include
building community awareness, identifying signs
of terrorist activities, information sharing,
and providing relevant subject-matter expertise.
Most career fire departments, for example, have
teams of highly trained hazardous-materials
and explosives experts. These firefighters can
inform public-awareness campaigns focusing on
signs of improvised explosive or incendiary
devices, and they can develop programs to train
fellow firefighters and public safety officers
to notice warning signs. They can also improve
pre-incident planning by articulating and listing
potential threats in order of seriousness and
likelihood, and aligning collective capabilities
In exploring the application of a fire departments
core competencies to prevention-oriented counterterrorism,
fire departments must guard against drifting
into law-enforcement activitiesnamely,
investigating crimes and apprehending criminals.
This division of responsibilities should not
preclude fire departments from strengthening
their role in counterterrorism. As a general
rule, to the extent that counterterrorism involves
investigating and apprehending dangerous people,
it is the province of law enforcement; to the
extent that it involves identifying, preventing,
and protecting against dangerous situations,
it is the firefighters.
OF FIRE DEPARTMENTS
There are three broad ways in which fire departments
can contribute to counterterrorism efforts:
as intelligence collectors, users and sharers;
as developers of community networks; and as
organizers of joint planning, preparedness,
STRATEGIC OUTLOOK ON INTELLIGENCE
to the FDNY, intelligence has a place in
all three of its missions: prevention, preparedness,
and response. For
example, advance intelligence (foreknowledge)
can alert firefighters responding to an
incident to the proximity of volatile chemicals
or potentially dangerous activities already
under surveillance. Familiarity with surroundings
increases firefighters situational
awareness, improves their operational efficiency,
and increases the safety of first responders
and the public. Intelligence can also tell
fire departments where best to deploy their
limited resources on the basis of where
threats are most likely to arise. And intelligence
can help departments anticipate an event
and thereby improve its chances of preventing
Collectors of Intelligence
The FDNY has identified the following
as ways in which it can produce operational
intelligence. Many of them can also be
adopted by fire departments across the
United States. Increased coordination,
integration, and communication with other
public-safety agencies enhance a fire
departments ability to fulfill its
core mission of protecting life.
- Access to venues. During
the course of routine building inspections,
arson investigations, and responses
to fire and medical emergencies, fire
department personnel enjoy access to
buildings generally denied outsiders.
These firefighters are passive collectors,
who are positioned in the normal course
of their duties to observe the signs
of terrorist activity and, assuming
that the firefighters are properly trained,
to recognize them as such. When properly
shared with local law enforcement and
local and national intelligence centers,
this information can fill critical intelligence
gaps and generate leads. In addition,
fire inspectors and fire personnel are
often present to ensure public safety
at high-profile eventssuch as
athletic contests, political rallies,
and concertsthat can be attractive
targets for terrorists.
- Access to, and knowledge of,
premises storing hazardous materials.
Fire department personnel regularly
inspect buildings and sites where hazardous
materials are stored. Being familiar
with such materials and their destructive
potential, fire department personnel
are in a privileged position to observe
and report on suspicious or unusual
conditions and to educate facility managers
to do the same.
- Observation of suspicious activity.
Firefighters may observe possible
terrorist materials, such as equipment
and planning documents, in the course
of responding to an incident.
- Detection of possible weapons
of mass destruction (WMD). Because
many fire department units carry equipment,
including radiation detectors, capable
of identifying hazardous materials,
fire departments can assist in discovering
materials used in a WMD or dirty bomb.
With proper training, firefighters and
emergency responders can become alert
to physical symptoms in humans that
might indicate the occurrence of a biological
or chemical attack.
- Protecting critical infrastructure.
Fire departments already play
an important role in assessing critical
to a variety of dangers, including terrorism.
While police departments evaluate the
security of structures, fire departments
evaluate their physical integrity, unique
operational challenges, and avenues
of rescue and escape.
Users of Intelligence
Intelligence provided to fire departments
can be a force and awareness multiplier
in a heightened threat environment. Having
access to intelligence about current threats
allows fire departments to focus their
limited resources on increasing their
training and readiness for particular
scenarios. The FDNY is, for example, the
only agency with knowledge of the exact
location and configuration of a fuel line
at New York Citys John F. Kennedy
Airport, and for
a long time it has been carrying out inspections
of it and conducting drills for dealing
with the consequences of a rupture. The
departments intelligence capability
proved its value when it learned of the
possibility that a suspected terrorist
operation had targeted the line. The acquisition
of this intelligence was followed by an
Intelligence Training and Sharing
The FDNY has conducted classes in identifying
suspicious behavior and recognizing what
might be indicators of terrorist planning.
Using faculty from the Combating Terrorism
Center at the United States Military Academy,
the FDNY has created a graduate-level
executive-education programthe first
of its kind in the nationto educate
fire and EMS officers (who are under FDNY
supervision) about the threat terrorists
pose to first responders and the cities
they protect. The U.S. Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) is currently
testing a program with the FDNY in sharing
intelligence information and training
firefighters to recognize terrorist activity,
with the hope of expanding the program
to other jurisdictions if it is successful.
According to a recent Associated Press
article, when entering a private residence,
FDNY firefighters now consider the implications
of encountering an individual who is hostile,
uncooperative, or expressing hatred toward
or discontent with the United States,
as well as the implications of encountering
ammunition, firearms, surveillance equipment,
training or flight manuals, chemicals
that seem out of place, and the absence
FDNY Chief Salvatore Cassano is quoted
as saying that some terrorism-related
information has been passed along to law-enforcement
officers since terrorist training began
three years ago.
The FDNY is part of the Joint Terrorism
Task Force for New York, which is run
by the FBI, and two fire marshals are
assigned to the JTTF.
DHS has issued security clearances to
several New York fire chiefs,
and a small number of firefighters have
access to intelligence that is typically
shared with the FBI, state and local law
enforcement, and the Coast Guard.
The FDNY has launched a number of innovations
incorporating intelligence into its operations.
For example, the FDNY is now authorized
to receive classified information as part
of its Fire Department Operation Center.
In addition, in 2006 the FDNY created
a Center for Counterterrorism and Disaster
Preparedness containing four functional
units: a strategic management unit for
organizing and reporting preparedness
activities and drafting FDNY strategic
documents; a risk assessment and target
hazards unit for gathering information
on critical infrastructure and then developing
profiles of buildings; an exercise design
unit that designs and conducts exercises
and then evaluates the hazards; and an
emergency response-plans unit, which drafts
and updates emergency response plans for
of Fire Departments
Fire departments can serve as both collectors
and consumers of intelligence before, during,
and after a terrorist attack. They may serve
a collection function by reporting warning signs
encountered during their normal routines. The
modern firefighter is also a subject-matter
expert who can use intelligence to assess the
likelihood of a threat and to prepare a response
in the event of an attack. Following an attack,
firefighters are capable of classifying and
distributing vital information to other first
responders and then to appropriate agencies.
Finally, fire departments may be involved in
post-incident investigations leading to arrests
or new prevention and response policies.
Of all these functions, the use of intelligence
to prevent attacks is the least familiar to
1. Preventive Intelligence
Fire departments ability to serve a preventive
intelligence role comes from both the access
to houses and other buildings they are afforded
in the course of duty and from the relationship
they enjoy with the local community. Firefighters
may enter a building to conduct a fire inspection,
for example, and come across something out of
the ordinary. Charles Jennings, the deputy commissioner
of public safety for the City of White Plains,
New York, said that he believed most firefighters
would raise a flag if they came
across something suggesting terrorist involvement
during the course of an inspection.
With regard to generating, evaluating, and
distributing passive intelligence, firefighters
training and education in recognizing indicators
of suspicious circumstances or people.
this knowledge to citizen volunteers and community
tips and leads from the community.
passively collected information with law enforcement
in compliance with established mechanisms.
shifting from passive to active intelligence
In addition, fire departments can act as gathering
points for tips and leads from the community.
Members of the public may feel more comfortable
reporting suspicious activities to the fire
department than to the police, with which they
sometimes have a more adversarial relationship.
This is especially true of volunteer fire departments,
which are, of course, staffed by local citizens.
When the public reports something suspicious,
more than just a counterterrorism purpose may
be served: more communication may yield better
public safety in general. For example, an unusually
large accumulation of boxes that a community
member notices and reports may have no relation
to terrorism but could present a fire hazard.
To perform a preventive-intelligence role,
fire departments must make their communities
aware that they will accept information and
pass it on to the appropriate authorities. Even
if they decide not to serve as an alternative
channel for community members who might be hesitant
to contact law enforcement, fire departments
at a minimum can direct community members to
established tip lines (e.g., 888-NYC-SAFE, or
the local FBI field office).
But to perform in these ways, fire departments
must establish protocols for sharing the information
that they receive with law-enforcement and intelligence
agencies. The typical department, however, has
neither developed a program for alerting the
community that it can transmit pertinent information
nor established mechanisms for relaying such
information. For example, the Boston Fire Departments
public information officer stated that the department
considers tips of this kind to be more appropriately
handled by the police.
The District of Columbia Fire Departments
public information officer told us that the
department views such tips as the province of
Though such caution is understandable, firefighters
do receive information from the public and observe
all kinds of occurrences in the course of their
normal duties. Frequently missing is the systemic
capability to recognize what is important from
a counterterrorism perspective, how to report
it, and how to manage information in a multiagency
context. The receiving agency, in turn, should
have officers designated to accept and process
information that the fire department transmits.
2. Subject-Matter Experts
As first responders, firefighters can provide
operational intelligence to emergency-response
agencies that have not yet arrived at the scene.
They can determine the gravity of a situation
and decide what resources are required, whether
it be bomb squads, Hazmat teams, local law enforcement,
or the FBI. They can also determine whether
a situation has been stabilized, or if there
is the risk of a sucker punch or
follow-on attack. Such
real-time insight can save lives.
Firefighters are also professionals knowledgeable
about structural engineering and hazardous materials.
In a 2006 article in the Worcester Telegram
& Gazette, Worcester district fire chief
Frank Diliddo said, The average firefighter
nowadays learns about structural components,
has a chemistry background and has a medical
background. . . . All of these components put
together make a smarter, more efficient firefighter
to handle these situations.
Much of this knowledge is useful in preventing
and responding to terrorist attacks as well.
For example, almost all fire departments require
firefighters to be certified emergency medical
technicians. With this
skill set, firefighters can be trained to recognize
the first signs of a chemical, biological, or
Fire departments can also play an important
role in the criminal investigation following
a terrorist attack, especially if there was
structural damage to a building or evidence
of arson. In one such incident, in Arizona,
the Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Rural Metro fire
departments cooperated with the Phoenix Joint
Terrorism Task Force in an investigation of
an ecoterrorist who had been setting fire to
luxury homes in a misguided effort to arrest
suburban sprawl. Similarly,
in New York City, fire marshals work closely
with the FBIs Joint Terrorism Task Force
on threat analysis and complex incident investigations.
These marshals have full police powers and played
an important role in the investigations following
the attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993
Finally, as consumers of intelligence, fire
departments can better prepare for the possibility
of a terrorist attack. For example, fire departments
can use threat intelligence to revise attack
scenarios that are part of their training programs.
Fire departments can also play a deterrent role
by using intelligence to determine the size
of potential terrorists presence at locations
vulnerable to attack, such as large sporting
events and political rallies.
3. Preventing Abuse of Intelligence by
Given the broad license that firefighters have
to enter all kinds of buildings without a search
warrant, the question arises: should firefighters
actively serve as the eyes and ears of counterterrorism
effortsthat is, go beyond their normal
responsibilities of inspection and actually
search for evidence of possible terrorist activity?
None of the fire department officials whom we
interviewed for this paper agreed with this
idea: everyone felt that it would be best to
tread lightly to avoid confusing fire departments
public-safety mission with law enforcement.
A major reason that firefighters enjoy a less
contentious relationship with the community
than do police is precisely that they do not
serve a law-enforcement function. Detroits
deputy fire commissioner stated: I dont
want our folks to be put in a position where
theyre reporting something that
was really no problem in the first place.
Civil liberties advocates have already voiced
concerns about increasing firefighters
counterterrorism role. Mike German, a former
FBI agent who is now national security policy
counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union,
said, If in the conduct of doing their
jobs [firefighters] come across evidence of
a crime, of course they should report that to
the police. But you dont want them being
intelligence agents. Do we want [communities]
to fear the fire department as well as the police?
It is possible that some firefighters would
exceed their charge in this area. All should
be taught that they are not to serve as active
intelligence gatherers who go out of their way
to look for incriminating material but rather
as passive collectors of information. It would
be misguided and probably a violation of the
U.S. Constitutions Fourth Amendment for
a firefighter to conduct a safety inspection
of the home of a person whom the department
had been told was a suspected criminal or terrorist,
if the reason that a firefighter undertook the
inspection was chiefly to circumvent the requirement
of a search warrant. Fire safety officials with
whom we spoke said that they take care not to
use their powers inappropriately.
Firefighters can be trained to report information
without skirting the law or jeopardizing community
relations. At the same time, some could interpret
their mission to be one of generating some minimum
volume of findings, as professional intelligence
agents are expected to do, even in the absence
of legitimate grounds for suspicion. Although
such evidence may not lead anywhere, simply
reporting it could, in certain circumstances,
amount to a violation of someones civil
liberties. Department officials must make clear
that heightened awareness is a goal, not an
Creation of Community Networks
Fire departments typically enjoy excellent
community relations. Many of them keep their
doors open around the clock, allow children
to climb onto fire trucks when they are not
responding to an emergency, and cooperate with
local residents staging parades, fund-raisers,
and school visits. This rapport with the community
places fire departments in a unique position
to build dialogue. Departments can teach citizens
to recognize the signs of suspicious activity
and encourage them to report them. Departments
can also involve community members in the business
of emergency response.
1. Involving the Public in Emergency
Community members can be involved in responding
to and preventing catastrophes, whether natural
or man-made, even when the latter are not the
result of terrorism. The capacities of American
citizens, if harnessed, can go a long way toward
mitigating the impact of a catastrophe.
One such program is the Community Emergency
Response Team (CERT). The CERT concept was developed
by the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985,
was later adopted by the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA), and is now managed by the Citizen
Corps within the Department of Homeland Security.
The program teaches citizens how to prepare
for a disaster and serve as auxiliary responders
when one occurs. This program has been adopted
throughout the United States.
The program of Phoenixs fire department
is highly developed. As Deputy Chief John Maldonado
explains, the Phoenix department would be overwhelmed
by a major catastrophe because the city is so
sprawling: [W]e only have fifty-two stations
in 550 square miles.
Consequently, the department has focused on
teaching community members how to assist it
and themselves in disaster situations, and established
CERT there for that purpose. If a major emergency
strikes the Phoenix area, CERT members are expected
to give critical support to first responders,
provide immediate assistance to victims, and
organize spontaneous volunteers at a disaster
CERT members can take a train-the-trainer course
(conducted by FEMA or the state training office
for emergency management) and then conduct training
sessions of over twenty hours in length for
other volunteers, who upon completion become
CERT members themselves. The training includes
disaster preparedness, disaster fire suppression,
basic disaster medical operations, light search
and rescue operations and terrorism awareness.
Such CERT training may also cover past incidents,
warning signs, how to communicate relevant information,
and where it should be sent.
The value of CERT volunteers was demonstrated
during the response to Hurricane Katrina, when
the state of Arizona deployed a team of them
to set up Phoenixs Veterans Memorial Coliseum
as a shelter to receive victims from Louisiana.
In what was dubbed Operation Good Neighbor,
CERT volunteers helped transport and register
evacuees and assisted in delivering meals to
them. The Phoenix Citizen Corps Committee credits
the missions relative success to CERT
members familiarity with its command structure:
Although many church and volunteer groups
helped with activities
, it was clear
that CERT members had an understanding of how
an incident is structured and assigned.
This level of understanding does not have to
be limited to emergency response. These same
volunteers can be trained to spot warning signs
of an act of terrorism in the making, and report
2. Building Community Networks
The importance of community involvement extends
beyond the capacity to respond to an incident.
James Forest, director of terrorism studies
at the United States Military Academy at West
Point, has observed: The current threat
to America requires greater engagement with
the public, as the necessary eyes and ears of
the nations homeland security infrastructure.
Two elements of increasing public involvement
are expanding public knowledge of potential
threats and ensuring that members of the public
know how to report them to the appropriate authorities.
No one can observe everything with equal attention
and comprehension. Therefore, the kind of awareness
being emphasized will depend on a trainees
vocation and background. For instance, mechanics
would be in a position to notice vehicle modifications
to accommodate a heavy load; counterterrorism
training should make the mechanics suspicious
and perhaps ready to report the modifications
to the appropriate authorities. Likewise, the
manager of a storage facility should be able
to recognize suspicious items on premises; and
distributors of chemicals, body armor, propane,
ammonium nitrate fertilizer, weapons, or prepaid
cell phones can usually tell when the purchasers
of these items dont seem like the people
who would normally use them.
Forest notes that to be effective, the
public must be equipped with the knowledge of
where and why specific locations and activities
may be a terrorist target, what is being done
to protect those targets, and how they can help.
Since fire departments are already involved
in community education efforts, they are well-placed
to build community networks.
PLAINS, NEW YORK
Joint Planning and
The city of White Plains is located in
Westchester County, about 22 miles north
of midtown Manhattan. Until 9/11, the
White Plains police and fire services
were largely disengaged from each other.
However, after the 9/11 attacks highlighted
the hubris of this disengagement,
White Plains became committed to integrating
One way that the city did so was by holding
weekly Compstat meetings,
which were chaired by the commissioner
of public safety and attended by senior
commanders from the police and fire departments.
In these meetings, operational data
of both bureaus is statistically analyzed
and presented for review and comment.
The agencies work together in these meetings
to seek solutions that are comprehensive,
holistic, and utilize joint resources.
While the police department may present
the past weeks crime activity in
statistical form, the fire department
may present the techniques and methods
it used to fight recent fires. Although
the Compstat meetings are not geared toward
the threat of terrorism per se, they are
a forum for sharing working methods, and
they represent an institutional process
for jointly addressing challenges.
White Plains has also implemented a system
of joint training and planning. Firefighters
and police officers train each other in
areas such as operations, CPR, awareness
of weapons of mass destruction, and Hazmat
In 2004, White Plains police and fire
performed together a full-scale hazardous-materials
exercise in conjunction with the Con Edison
Office of Emergency Planning and area
ambulance services. The scenario involved
a criminal apprehension, rescue of an
injured non-ambulatory Con Edison employee
in a hazardous atmosphere, and the use
of protective equipment in isolating and
decontaminating a substation.
Joint Planning, Preparedness,
As the Homeland Security Councils 2007
National Strategy for Homeland Security
stated, first responders will always play
a prominent, frontline role in helping to prevent
terrorist attacks as well as in preparing for
and responding to a range of natural and man-made
Fire departments and other law-enforcement and
emergency-response agencies need to plan and
prepare for terrorist attacks as an integrated
body, particularly for the kinds of attacks
likely to produce high numbers of casualties.
Information sharing and joint training are critical.
Much has recently been written about the National
Incident Management System (NIMS), under which
unified command structures are created. A Department
of Homeland Security fact sheet states: NIMS
establishes standardized incident management
processes, protocols, and procedures that all
respondersfederal, state, tribal, and
localwill use to coordinate and conduct
NIMS calls for an incident command system as
the standard response for all major incidents;
interoperable communications systems; preparedness
measures; an information-sharing system; and
an integration center that can assess proposed
changes to NIMS. What is perhaps missing from
the recent discussion of NIMS is acknowledgment
that NIMSs principles and guidelines can
establish standard operational procedures for
dealing with nonemergency situations, not simply
serious, discrete incidents.
The federal government mandated NIMS across
the country after the 9/11 attacks. It
is in turn based upon the Incident Command
System (ICS), a methodology for coordinating
multiple agency response situations, which was
developed in California.
The ICS was a reaction to the complete breakdown
in communication and coordination among firefighting
agencies in California during the disastrous
wildfires of 1970. Dana Cole, assistant chief
of the California Department of Forestry and
Fire Protection, described those conditions:
[A]s fires burned across and out of one
jurisdiction to another, individual jurisdictions
were often flying blind and forced
to improvise management response with no clear
organization of authority between departments,
no predetermined rules for collective decision-making,
and no coordination of even the most basic communications.
This breakdown forced California agencies to
develop a template that would allow the
emergency responders to create a temporary,
ad hoc organization at an incident scene that
could provide for consolidated management and
incorporate in a coordinated manner the assistance
that neighboring jurisdictions and departments
offered. By 1982, the
ICS had been adopted as the centerpiece of a
federal plan designed to improve coordination
among federal and state agencies when large-scale
In the tradition of local responsibility for
coping with emergencies, the Arlington County,
Virginia, Fire Department (ACFD) directed the
emergency response to the attack on the Pentagon
on 9/11. Following ICS procedures, Assistant
Chief for Operations James Schwartz oversaw
the efforts of his own department, as well as
those of nearby fire departments, the Pentagons
internal police force, the FBI, and FEMA. The
ICS called for a clear chain of command, only
one supervisor per responder, and a limited
and specified span of control for every supervisor.
It also called for the establishment of a single
recognizable incident command post, incident
bases for support activities, camps for storage,
and staging areas, where responders and equipment
could be located just before deployment.
According to the Arlington County After-Action
Report on the Response to the September 11 Terrorist
Attack on the Pentagon, Surviving
seriously injured building occupants were rescued,
and hundreds of additional potential victims
The 9/11 Commission Report affirmed the
ICSs centrality to emergency rescue efforts,
stating that the ACFD was able to overcome the
inherent complications of a response across
jurisdictions because the Incident Command System,
a formalized management structure for emergency
response, was in place in the National Capital
Region on 9/11.
It was crucial that multiple agencies had collaborated
prior to the incident. The Pentagon police force,
for example, had exercised with the ACFD, as
had nearby fire departments. Fortuitously, the
FBI representative to the Unified Team, the
successor to the Unified Command, had been a
New York City firefighter. Critical to the ICSs
success as well was the fact that it had created
relationships of trust between response agencies,
allowing for the kind of frank communication
between decision makers that is necessary for
avoiding major mistakes. Former Arlington County
Police Chief Ed Flynn, whose department participated
in the ICS-based response to the Pentagon attack,
explained: You are exposed in these situations.
you need to know and trust each other
so you can talk to each other frankly in a crisis
without worrying about having to repair relations
later. It is
significant that the Unified Command had trouble
coordinating with the Washington, D.C., fire
department and the firefighters it sent on its
own initiative. Unlike other nearby departments,
it had not exercised with the ACFD.
Preparedness is a continuous process involving
all levels of government as well as nongovernmental
organizations. Even at the local level, unity
of command, joint sourcing and logistics, and
multiagency collaboration need to be planned,
practiced, and mastered. This involves developing
guidelines, protocols, and standards for planning,
training, personnel qualification, equipment,
Counterterrorism training, for example, should
be standardized and open to a broad array of
first preventers. Toward that end, the Manhattan
Institute partnered with the Los Angeles Police
Department in developing a pilot program for
a National Counter-Terrorism Academy (NCTA).
Launched in March 2008, the NCTA will educate
first preventers about emerging threats in the
new security environment and effective operational
responses. The pilot program includes seventy
students representing almost thirty agenciesincluding
police, fire, federal agenciesas well
as the private sector. Similarly, the state
of New York has announced the opening of the
New York State Preparedness Training Center,
which is designed to coordinate training of
firefighters and other first responders throughout
the state in dealing with weapons of mass destruction
New technologies can enhance education and
training initiatives. For example, the Homeland
Security Management Institute at Long Island
University offers, via the Internet, a masters
degree in Homeland Security Management for public
On the training side, the Entertainment Technology
Center at Carnegie Mellon University is collaborating
with the FDNY to develop a simulation called
Hazmat: Hotzone for
teaching firefighters the techniques to deal
with hazardous materials or terrorist attacks.
Lieutenant Tony Mussorfiti stated that Hazmat:
Hotzone can create a scenario from scratch,
run it in real time, and change things as we
go. We can give [firefighters] complete sensory
overload, the way it can get in real life, with
all the sights and sounds.
Successful domestic counterterrorism is best
achieved by involving fire departments at the
strategic as well as the operating level. While
it goes without saying that not all fire departments
are created equalthey have different resources,
different kinds of relations with their communities,
and different risk profilesthe following
recommendations should broadly apply.
1. Become collectors, consumers, and
distributors of intelligence. In following
their normal rounds with a bit more attention
to their surroundings and a heightened understanding
of what they see, firefighters can vastly expand
the reach of traditional intelligence and law-enforcement
professionals. By consuming intelligence, fire
departments acquire the raw material from which
to distill training and planning scenarios and
from which to provide expert advice on structural
risks and hazardous materials. Finally, fire
departments can develop the means and methods
to share this information with law-enforcement
and intelligence agencies.
2. Create community networks.
Fire departments should take advantage of the
excellent relations they enjoy with their communities
by organizing volunteer emergency response programs
and raising public awareness of how to recognize
and report suspicious activity. Firefighters
should also be trained in how to manage information
from the local community and establish liaisons
with law enforcement to ensure that any resulting
information is properly investigated.
Joint Training and
Charlotte is home to the Bank of America
and Wachovia, two of the countrys
largest commercial banks.
It is served by a major airport, two nuclear
power plants, a major transcontinental
pipeline, and a lake in the northern part
of the county that supplies Charlotte-Mecklenburg
County with water. In 2004, Charlotte
had a population of approximately 625,000
and uniformed forces of about 1,000 firefighters
and 1,500 police officers.
The most noteworthy aspect of Charlottes
emergency services is the degree of police
and fire integration at the operational
level. Referring to the citys joint
police/fire training academy, which was
founded in the mid-1970s, a report issued
by the Michaelian Institute for Public
Policy and Management at Pace University
states: The recruits commingle frequently,
encouraging good relations between the
two divisions, which are housed
in the same building.
The centerpiece of this cooperative model
is called the Mobile Command Unit. It
has employed since 1987 a joint-use incident
command vehicle with chairs for police
and fire, EMS and emergency management,
and public works officials.
It also fields an Advanced Local Emergency
Response Team (ALERT), which was the
first local task force that incorporated
firefighters, law-enforcement officers,
EMS, physicians, federal, and state partners
into one response team.
Emergency responders are issued a thousand-page
book that lists all imaginable disasters
and describes the responsibilities of
each department. In addition, responders
are equipped with a co-800 MHz radio system
enabling all response personnel to communicate
with one another in the event of an emergency
3. Plan for disasters and prepare ways
to respond. Proper planning and preparedness
have a deterrent as well as a mitigating effect
on terrorism. To begin with, terrorists are
less likely to attack if they expect their efforts
to be thwarted, or if injury to themselves,
capture, and punishment are likely to result.
Even if defensive planning merely delays or
diverts an attack that is inevitable, firefighters
have won for themselves more time to prepare
measures that should reduce harm.
4. More closely integrate fire and police.
These two uniformed services have distinct missions
that suddenly overlap amid a crisis. Working
backward from the kind of communication, coordination,
mutual respect, and delineation and delegation
of tasks needed at such times, fire and police
need to embark on joint planning, training,
and exercises without further delay.
Most of this papers recommendations address
public safety issues that arise from natural
disasters as well as man-made ones unconnected
to terrorism. White Plains, New York, for example,
has adapted its terrorism planning to such important
public-safety issues as the relationship between
safe housing and bar/cabaret enforcement and
Some fire departments have already taken the
lead in adopting innovative programs that greatly
enhance the safety of their communities. More
departments need to become involved. Emergency
response has been debated, deliberated, planned,
and implemented at every level. So, too, should
the role of fire departments in counterterrorism
efforts. We do not know when terrorists will
strike again, but taking steps now to deter
them will push any such attack further into
the future and diminish its impact.
- National Fire Protection Association, U.S.
Fire Department Profile Through 2006,
Nov. 2007, http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/FDprofilefactsheet.pdf.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Fire Fighting
Occupations, in Occupational Outlook
Mar. 16, 2008).
- Fire Department City of New York, Terrorism
and Disaster Preparedness Strategy (2007),
p. 21 (hereinafter Terrorism and Disaster
- Ibid., p. 15.
- Much of the information in this section on
the FDNYs strategic outlook comes from
its publication Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness
Strategy, cited above.
- Interview with Joseph Pfeifer, chief of Counter
Terrorism and Emergency Preparedness, FDNY,
and Michael J. Puzziferri, acting chief of Counter
Terrorism and Emergency Preparedness, Jan. 31,
- For a general discussion, see Graham Allison,
Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable
Catastrophe (New York: Times Books, 2004);
and Judith Miller et al., Germs: Biological
Weapons and Americas Secret War (New
York: Simon & Schuster, 2001). See also
Hard-Won Lessons: Policing Terrorism in
the United States (July 2005),
pp. 1317 (noting that one of the 9/11
hijackers sought medical attention in Florida
for a leg wound that had some of the signs of
- Interview with Pfeifer and Puzziferri.
- Eileen Sullivan, FDNY Could Take on
New Role as Anti-Terrorism Eyes of Government,
Associated Press, Nov. 23, 2007.
- Interview with Pfeifer and Puzziferri.
- Sullivan, FDNY Could Take on New Role
as Anti-Terrorism Eyes of Government,
Associated Press, Nov. 23, 2007.
- FDNY Terrorism Preparedness Fiscal
Year 2006, n.d., from
- Telephone interview with Charles Jennings,
deputy commissioner of public safety, White
Plains, New York (interviewed by Kyle Dabruzzi,
Oct. 11, 2006).
- Telephone interview with Steve McDonnell,
public information officer, Boston Fire Department
(interviewed by Kyle Dabruzzi, Oct. 5, 2006).
- Telephone interview with Alan Etter, public
information officer, District of Columbia Fire
Department (interviewed by Kyle Dabruzzi, Oct.
6, 2006). However, D.C.s fire department
does have liaisons with the Joint Terrorism
- FEMA/USFA/NFA, Emergency Response to Terrorism:
Self-Study (June 1999), pp. 2223.
- Scott J. Croteau, As Skills and Equipment
Change, Mass. Firefighters Valor Remains
Constant, Worcester Telegram &
Gazette (Worcester, Mass.), May 8, 2006.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Fire Fighting
- See testimony of Ray P. Churay, assistant
special agent in charge of the FBIs Phoenix
division, Terrorism Preparedness, House
Committee on Governmental Reform, Subcommittee
on Government Efficiency, Financial Management
and Intergovernmental Relations, Mar. 22, 2002.
- Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness Strategy,
- E.g., telephone interview with Jennings (Its
one of those tread-lightly things
where you dont want this to turn into
an issue where one minute a firefighter is doing
a fire inspection, and then the next hes
performing a law-enforcement function);
telephone interview with Phoenix Fire Department
deputy chief John Maldonado (expressing concern
about undermining community trust) (interviewed
by Kyle Dabruzzi, Oct. 11, 2006).
- Sullivan, FDNY Could Take on New Role
as Anti-Terrorism Eyes of Government.
- Telephone interview with Etter; telephone
interview with McDonnell (We dont
go in and specifically look for things of that
- About CERT, https://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/about.shtm
(accessed Apr. 17, 2008).
- Telephone interview with Maldonado.
- Phoenix official website, What is CERT?,
(accessed Oct. 21, 2006).
- The Newsletter of the Phoenix Citizen Corps
Committee, vol. 1 (Sept.Oct. 2005),
- James Forest, The Role of Everyday
Citizens in Homeland Security, Nieman
Watchdog (Nieman Foundation for Journalism at
Harvard University), Sept. 6, 2006, http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ask_this.view&askthisid=00232.
As noted in the Center for Policing Terrorisms
Safe Cities Series, [t]he emphasis is
not on encouraging people to become spies, but
rather making them more aware of the signals
they encounter in their normal daily activities.
Hard-Won Lessons, p. 21.
- See Bureau of Justice Assistance, Warning
Signs of Terrorist Events: Pocket Guide for
Law Enforcement, Institute for Intergovernmental
- Forest, The Role of Everyday Citizens
in Homeland Security.
- Richard L. Lyman and James M. Bradley, Integrated
Police and Fire Services: The Public Safety
Model in White Plains, New York, in Building
Sound Homeland Security Foundations: Enhancing
Local Police-Fire Cooperation, ed. Brian
J. Nickerson and Frank G. Straub, Pace University,
- Originally developed by the NYPD, Compstat
refers to a strategic control system
developed to gather and disseminate information
on the NYPDs crime problems and to track
efforts to deal with them. David Weisburd
et al., The Growth of Compstat in American
Policing, Police Foundation Reports
(Apr. 2004), p. 2. It has since been adopted
in a number of other jurisdictions.
- Lyman and Bradley, Integrated Police
and Fire Services, p. 41.
- Ibid., p. 48.
- Ibid., p. 49.
- Homeland Security Council, National
Strategy for Homeland Security (Oct. 2007),
- Department of Homeland Security, Fact
Sheet: National Incident Management System (NIMS),
(accessed Nov. 6, 2006).
- Taken from FEMAs COURSE: IS-100
Intro to Incident Command System (ICS 100),
The Incident Command System,
- Dana Cole, The Incident Command System:
A 25-Year Evaluation by California Practitioners
(submitted to the National Fire Academy as part
of the Executive Fire Officer Program, 2000)
(quoted in Pamela Varley, Command Performance:
County Firefighters Take Charge of the 9/11
Pentagon Emergency (report for the Kennedy
School of Government case program, 2003).
- Varley, Command Performance, p. 7.
- For more information on how the ACFD and
federal agencies worked together immediately
following the attack on the Pentagon, see Part
4 of The George Washington Universitys
Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Managements
July 2002 Report Observing and Documenting
the Inter-Organizational Response to the September
11th Attack on the Pentagon, p. 12, found
- Arlington County, After-Action Report on the
Response to the September 11 Terrorist Attack
on the Pentagon (n.d.), http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/Fire/edu/about/docs/after_report.pdf,
- National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
Upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission
Report (2004), p. 314.
- Varley, Command Performance, p. 41.
- Ibid., p.35
- State Preparedness Center, http://www.security.state.ny.us/training/index.html
(accessed Mar. 7, 2008).
- See http://www.southampton.liu.edu/homeland/index.html
(accessed Mar. 18, 2008).
- Eric Sloss, Videogame Technology Helps
Train FDNY to Combat Terrorism, Hazmat Emergencies,
Carnegie Mellon Today, May 20, 2005.
- Gloria Goodale, In Case of Emergency,
Play Video Game, Christian Science
Monitor, June 6, 2005.
- Jerry Sennett and Jeffrey Dulin, The
Joint Incident Command Model of Charlotte-Mecklenburg,
North Carolina, in Building Sound Homeland
Security Foundations: Enhancing Local Police-Fire
Cooperation, ed. Nickerson and Straub,
- Ibid., p. 1.
- Ibid., p. 2.
- Ibid., p. 3.
- Ibid., p. 5.
- Lyman and Bradley, Integrated Police
and Fire Services, pp. 4245.