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    General: Domestic 'complex catastrophe' response contingent on training across federal, state, local agencies

    General: Domestic 'complex catastrophe' response contingent on training across federal, state, local agencies

    Photo By Sgt. Terence Ewings | Rescue technicians assigned to the Alabama National Guard’s 1152nd and 1153rd...... read more read more



    Story by Deveney Wall 

    Joint Task Force Civil Support

    FORT EUSTIS, Va. – The federal government’s ability to effectively respond to a catastrophic disaster in the U.S. has progressed “light years” since 2005’s federal response to Hurricane Katrina, according to a Hampton Roads-based homeland response expert.

    That’s the message U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jeff W. Mathis III, commander of Joint Task Force Civil Support, delivered to more than 125 defense and homeland response leaders as a keynote speaker to the Civil and Department of Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Symposium.

    “I think FEMA has moved light years beyond what we saw at Katrina; I believe DOD has moved light years beyond what we saw at Katrina,” said Mathis, speaking via video teleconference from an office at Mullan Hall here.

    Shortcomings to the federal response during Hurricane Katrina helped spur a National Response Framework to better synchronize response efforts between federal, state, local and tribal governments, as well as communities and non-government organizations. In essence, Katrina “illustrated that effective preparation and response to a catastrophe requires a joint effort between federal, state, and local government,” according to a 2008 Government Accountability Office report.

    But planning for and responding to a catastrophic domestic CBRN event, like a nuclear detonation in a major U.S. city, in support of civil authorities, is JTF-CS’ primary mission. Responding to such a “complex catastrophe,” like a 10 kiloton nuclear detonation in a major U.S. city, requires more cohesive training between federal, state and local government forces, said Mathis.

    “These are the events that we hope never happen,” said Mathis. “This is the national planning scenario number one – the 10 kiloton nuclear detonation.”

    JTF-CS is the only standing federal chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear response joint task force in the U.S. When directed, JTF-CS provides command and control of 5,200 federal military forces-known as the Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Response Force-located at more than 36 locations throughout the U.S.

    Mathis, who took command of JTF-CS last July, commanded more than 1,800 federal military responders in New York and New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy’s landfall on the eastern seaboard last year, an event he says, is different than planning for and responding to a no-notice catastrophic CBRN incident. For that, Mathis wants more training and integration between his joint task force and state and local-level responders – what he sees as a “must have” to validate JTF-CS’ response capabilities and timelines during key training exercise, such as Sudden Response in May.

    “What we need to do to make that exercise more realistic by ensuring we have state and local folks playing in the exercise,” said Mathis. “We need to have state and local participation.”

    JTF-CS is postured to rapidly respond to a catastrophic CBRN incident in the homeland to save lives, prevent further injury and provide critical support. JTF-CS, which was established in 1999 under the Clinton administration and is assigned to U.S. Northern Command, works with civil authorities in collaboration to ensure a well-coordinated response to CBRN and non-CBRN catastrophic incidents.

    To that end, Mathis told symposium attendees that working more closely with state and local response agencies will allow for more realistic response planning and, ultimately “provide a much more holistic view across the nation and how we would respond to a CBRN incident.”

    Most recently, Mathis re-emphasized the importance of collaborative working relations between federal, state and local level responders when JTF-CS hosted more than 100 federal, state and local level homeland response leaders for a three-day conference here March 5-7.

    “Relationships are huge,” Mathis told military, FEMA and state agency planners during the three day conference. “Every conversation we had was collaborative and supportive; we have to work together to take this thing forward.”

    Last week’s symposium was a professional education forum conducted by the Defense Strategies Institute designed to bring together leaders from across the Armed Services and Government Agencies and the industry that can forge solutions necessary to achieve the best responses in disaster management.

    In addition to Mathis, the annual event also featured speakers from Chemical Biological Defense, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development and Domestic Nuclear Detection branches of Department of Homeland Security, the Clinical Support Services from Fort Belvoir community hospital, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate section chief.



    Date Taken: 03.18.2013
    Date Posted: 03.18.2013 17:20
    Story ID: 103689

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