House is cutting back on funding to hospitals. The one area in terrorism preparedness where you have to bolster things is in dealing with patients. You can have all the detectors and all the level-A suits, and get all these people out of hot zones that you want, but if you don't have any place to bring them, you've got a problem.

We're going to put billions of dollars into first responders and they need it. But you have to focus on the health-care system, which is ultimately going to receive all these casualties.

Are first responders getting the resources they need?

I think they are getting some of what they need, but I don't think they are getting enough, and I don't think they are getting enough guidance. Some guidance is coming out, but not enough.

I am constantly getting calls on what bio-detector to buy. They say they're not getting the guidance they need. They don't know who to call, and they're getting conflicting information from federal agencies. They're getting more information from sales people than from the federal government. Well, that's not a good place to get your information.

The handheld bio-detectors -- they bought a lot of those and didn't realize how many of them don't work that well. There's technology coming out that will do field sampling.

There are a couple of companies working on it. It's great to have all these level-A suits and the de-con equipment, but once you're done de-conning the patients, if you don't have a process in place to [care for the injured], you're going to have a huge problem on your hands.

The first responders are getting a lot of money. There are a lot of complaints that the money isn't trickling down from the states, but there's an ongoing need for new and better training, for updated training. They're hungry for training. That's one of the things we're trying to do here.

What would you suggest for first responders unsure of what to buy and where to get training?

They really need to do their homework. There are some good training programs out there. The ODP [Office for Domestic Preparedness] training is pretty good. We use it here. They need to continue to update it, and they are trying to do that. The ODP is trying to bring the level of training up and standardize the training, which is exactly the thing that needs to be done.

We need more medical, public health and emergency medical services training. There's a vacuum there. The bigger question is where do you go to get the expertise when you want to buy equipment?

There is still confusion about that. I always recommend people call the DHS and either talk to somebody in one of the technical arenas -- Science and Technology, or State and Local [Government Coordination]. The Interagency Equipment Board comes out with lists every year.

The other good place to go is [the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health] NIOSH. Look at what NIOSH has approved. There's a lot of junk that comes out and makes claims about being able to do this or that [in terms of] respiratory protection. I've got masks in my office that people sell -- escape masks and things like that. Some are outstanding and some of them, when you look at them, you don't know whether to wear them or put flowers in them.

The State Department has been criticized for deciding to use the relatively immature facial recognition technology, which still has a high error rate, instead of fingerprints in electronic identification chips in new U.S. passports. Is that an example of what you've called "driving the technology"

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor