In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, there has been renewed attention on the safety and security practices deployed by first responders. Civilians, government officials and safety departments are examining how well first responders reacted once the bombs went off near the finish line.
"Two weeks ago, our country was attacked by radical Islamist terrorists," U.S. homeland security, committee chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas said in a statement, according to CBS News. "Four lives were lost and hundreds of others were forever changed. As our nation recovers, it is imperative that we understand what happened, what signs may have been missed and what we can improve."
A hearing has been scheduled for May 9, just one day after President Obama and his administration supported U.S. law enforcement and security personnel for how they handled the Boston attack. Still, some government officials feel a hearing is necessary to understand how Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev were able to pull off their attacks.
"This will be the first in a series of hearings, as part of a broader investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings," McCaul said, according to the news source. "The investigation will look at how law enforcement addressed the area after the attack; how federal, state and local officials communicated with their counterparts at other agencies regarding the suspects before and following the event; and the challenges associated with securing our country since 9/11. Ultimately, the investigation will assess how our efforts have evolved to meet the dynamic terrorist threat of foreign-inspired attacks on our soil, and what changes may be necessary to protect the homeland."
The bombings on April 15 came about just as lawmakers began to discuss whether homeland security funds are being appropriately used to train for attacks and detect terrorist activities.
USA Today reports that more than $40 billion in homeland security grants have been dispensed to urban areas across the United States since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These funds have been used for activities such as advanced training exercises, developing security plans and conducting various other safety measures in order to prevent an occurrence like 9/11 from happening again.
"We now have more equipment. We certainly have more training. We have more generic capability. How much more? We really don't know," David Mauer, director of the Government Accountability Office's homeland security and justice team, told a House subcommittee during a March hearing. "How much closer we are to what we need? We don't really know that either."
The National Preparedness Goal outlines 31 core capabilities categorized within five mission areas: prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery. It provides a framework for a national "whole community" approach to preparedness. However, in order to answer the fundamental questions "Are we ready for a particular risk" or "how ready are we?" requires a methodical approach to readiness measurement that includes the ongoing collection and consolidation of accurate and authoritative data on existing response capabilities and training.
Homeland security preparedness tactics are becoming a staple for public safety. USA Today reports that Boston held a mass-casualty drill in November 2012 that involved more than 1,800 first responders. Readiness training is vital to enable a community to achieve a response capability. It was this training that allowed Boston to react so quickly – minimizing the number of casualties that could have occurred. Officials have praised Boston's first responders for their quick thinking and ability to rapidly triage the scene. The wounded were brought to a number of area hospitals, where medical staff leaped into action and put into practice capabilities learned during mass-casualty drills.
In a time of dwindling public safety resources, no community has sufficient funds to prepare for every risk. Prioritizing risks and measuring a community's readiness against each specific risk will allow policy makers and emergency managers to make more informed trade-off decisions when allocating public funds.
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