The Day After: Rebuilding Main Street
The numerous federal, state, and local agencies working to prevent another terrorist attack on U.S. soil have made tremendous progress in intelligence and prevention. However, the federal government and the Department of Homeland Security have acknowledged that despite all the efforts of these agencies, it may not be possible to prevent another 9/11-type attack.
The report of the National Strategy for Homeland Security identified the three goals of homeland security as (1) preventing terrorist attacks within the United States, (2) reducing America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and (3) minimizing the damage and recovering from attacks that do occur. One of the key lessons of September 11, 2001, was that the ability to respond to terrorist attacks is a very important factor in minimizing loss of life and collateral damage. Some of the most severe criticisms of the 9/11 Commission Report were its assessment of federal, state, and local capacity for emergency response and actions to minimize damage after the attacks. Emergency response efforts were hampered by lack of coordination among agencies, incompatible emergency communication equipment, lack of resource capacity by the healthcare providers, and lack of organization and command to coordinate the efforts of the numerous multilevel agencies responding to the attack and responsible for follow-up actions.
The previous chapters have addressed the efforts focused on achieving the first two goals of homeland defense: prevention and reducing vulnerability. This chapter examines the strategies and programs developed after September 11, 2001, to minimize damage and speed recovery in the event of a terrorist attack, especially an attack using weapons of mass destruction. In the event of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, especially an attack involving weapons of mass destruction, the response of the government the day after will be an important factor in minimizing loss of life and injuries. Given the complexity of the task, many government agencies are involved in achieving this goal. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a key agency in responding to this goal. This chapter will discuss FEMA’s role in minimizing the damage and recovering from attacks that do occur and the plans that have been developed for responding to a terrorist attack in the United States.