The history of the United States is filled with accounts of natural disasters such as flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires, blizzards, and earthquakes. These disasters often result in catastrophic damage to homes, other buildings and structures, irreparable harm to the environment, and claim many lives. They also overwhelm local emergency response resources and require state and Federal assistance.
Transportation incidents involving the release of hazardous materials, and acts of terrorism involving the potential release of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) materials, all carry the threat of large-scale destruction and mass casualties. Regardless of the nature of a threat or disaster, first responders must be ready to respond.
With today's fast changing worldwide events, the ability to assure effective public safety practices in communities throughout the country has become a major challenge on a national scale. With increased emphasis on disaster preparedness, communities are being faced with the reality that they lack both the resources and knowledge to take full advantage of available training and funding opportunities.
For many large metropolitan areas, national assistance in preparedness against acts of terror began in 1997. It was then that the U.S. Department of Defense funded the "Domestic Preparedness Train-the-Trainer" program (DPTTT). This program provided first responders with fundamental information about chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials (CBRN); incident scene management; safety guidelines, casualty care, decontamination, and other important considerations.
The DPTTT program served as a significant "building block" to help the information-receiving agencies and organizations to establish or enhance their own response capabilities. In turn, it was incumbent upon the leaders of those organizations to not only share this information with all of their first responders, but also with neighboring response organizations who did not participate in the DPTTT program.
The often victims of natural disasters, major hazardous materials events and terrorist attacks are members of the public. To help reduce their potential risk of harm, the public must not only become more informed, but also more involved with community preparedness efforts. Presently, most of our country's population have little or no awareness of what they should do to prepare for a home or community emergency, or a disastrous event that involves contiguous jurisdictions and even beyond. Some citizens are receiving training designed to help them to help not only themselves when disaster strikes, but also their neighbors. Clearly, the citizens are part of the emergency preparedness equation.
Preparing our country to respond to natural disasters or acts of terror is an ongoing process that requires substantial commitment of resources such as time, money, and equipment. Moreover, it requires partnerships among first responder agencies, organizations, and the public. There are many agencies and organizations at all levels of government and the private sector that are available to help both first responders and the public to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. Since 2000 the America's First Responders Foundation has been available to serve both first responders and the public throughout the United States.
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