Chemical, radiological and biological threats don't receive a lot of attention in this country even though they might be more of a threat than people realize. This lack of awareness has left public safety officials and doctors ill equipped to respond to these types of disasters.
Does it have to be this way? Training courses on how to deal with chemical, radiological and biological disasters are available, but they're expensive and some emergency managers at the local level complain that courses that carry the detail necessary to aid state and local governments are scarce.
The problem, according to Kern Wilson, emergency coordinator in Tampa, is that most of the training courses available are developed at the federal level and lack sufficient detail to implement on the local level. Wilson said the feds don't make them available in a format they can use.
"A lot of these systems are very, very general. General in a sense that they use a lot of buzzwords," he said. "We look at it and say, 'Good concept. Now how can we take that concept and apply the details at our level?' When it gets to our level there's so much detail lacking it's ridiculous.
"If you look at the FEMA Web site, it's great for the citizens, but as far as emergency managers go, people who have to manage disasters, there isn't a thing on the web site we could use," Wilson said.
The vendor community is beginning to address the issue. C2 Technologies has worked with state and local governments in Virginia; Tampa, Fla.; Michigan; and the District of Columbia. The company worked closely with former Gov. Jim Gilmore, who wanted to put Virginia on the map in terms of disaster preparedness. But the company works mostly with the big boys in federal government, including FEMA, the Department of Transportation, the FAA, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Education, the Air Force, the Navy and the Army.
The company provides disaster preparedness training courses, some of which are available in CD-ROM and Web-based formats.
Three years ago, C2 prepared a series of exercises for about 6,000 jurisdictions around the country that analyzed the readiness of communities to respond to a disaster. Still, C2 founder and CEO Dolly Oberoi is dismayed at the lack of readiness. "My question on Sept. 11 was, 'What happened to all that training? Why was our response so poor?' This is something we had been anticipating," she said.
A Variety of Formats
C2 landed a contract 13 years ago to train FEMA in disaster preparedness and disaster management. FEMA is still C2's largest client but the company has since expanded its client base and the breadth of its training.
"We started out as a small training company and have emerged as an enterprise-wide provider," Oberoi said. "By that I mean we go into enterprises and we look at their workforce and needs, and from there we develop competencies and training models and, as a result, we end up working for the whole enterprise. We do the strategic human-resources-management component, the e-learning component and then the IT functions for the organization."
When the District of Columbia was shaken a few years ago by the fear that some abandoned suitcases might contain anthrax, they called C2 to improve the district's level of preparedness. C2 conducted a series of tri-state exercises that involved police, fire and emergency-management offices from Virginia, Maryland and the district. "We sort of coordinated how they could work in unison in response to incidents of mass destruction," Oberoi said.
C2 helped Virginia when Gov. Gilmore wanted to become a leader in preparedness training.
"We analyzed their current capabilities, did vulnerability analysis, identified their needs and then developed and devised emergency- and response-management