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Back to Archives | Back to February 2004 Contents 

Initial National Response Plan

On October 10, 2003, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge approved the Initial National Response Plan (INRP), an interim plan designed to help develop a unified approach to domestic incident management across the nation.

The INRP represents a significant first step toward the overall goal of integrating the current family of federal domestic prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery plans into a single all-hazards national response plan.

The initial plan was developed in conjunction with state and local governments, law enforcement, and the fire and emergency management communities, tribal associations, the private sector, and other nongovernmental organizations. The objective was for the United States to be better prepared by integrating emergency response plans that cover terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.

Presidential Directive 5
In the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5 (HSPD-5)1 the purpose of the INRP was to enhance the ability of the United States to manage domestic incidents by establishing a single, comprehensive national incident management system. HSPD-5 outlines the policy as follows:

    To prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies, the United State shall establish a single, comprehensive approach to domestic incident management. The objective of the United States government is to ensure that all levels of government across the nation have the capability to work efficiently and effectively together, using a national approach to domestic incident management. In these efforts, with regard to domestic incidents, the United States government treats crisis management and consequence management as a single, integrated function, rather than as two separate functions.2
The presidential directive designates the secretary of homeland security as the principal federal official for domestic incident management. Pursuant to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the secretary is responsible for coordinating federal operations in the United States to prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks and to coordinate the use of the federal government's resources during recovery from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies. For this action to take place one of four conditions must apply:
  • A federal department or agency acting under its own authority has requested the assistance of the secretary of homeland security

  • The resources of state and local authorities have been overwhelmed and the appropriate state and local authorities have requested federal assistance

  • More than one federal department or agency has become substantially involved in responding to the incident

  • The secretary of homeland security has been directed to assume responsibility for managing the domestic incident by the president of the United States
As this effort evolves, the U.S. homeland security effort will be guided by the concept of one plan.

State and Local Authorities
Presidential Directive 5 clearly recognizes the roles and responsibilities of state and local authorities in domestic incident management. The directive recognizes that the initial responsibility for managing domestic incidents generally falls on state and local authorities. The federal government's role is to assist state and local authorities when their resources are overwhelmed, or when federal interests are involved.

The Department of Homeland Security is tasked with coordinating with state and local governments on planning, equipment, training, and exercise activities. The Homeland Security Department provides assistance to state and local governments to develop all-hazards plans and capabilities and ensure compatibility with federal plans.

Elements of INRP
The Initial National Response Plan strengthens the U.S. emergency response process by harmonizing existing federal response plan activities with incident management leadership responsibilities assigned to Homeland Security. As a result, the nation's responders will now be supported with new incident management capability including the following:

National Homeland Security Operations Center: The INRP provides for the establishment of the permanent Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC) to serve as the primary national-level hub for domestic incident management operational communications and information pertaining to domestic incident management. The HSOC is located at Department of Homeland Security headquarters; the HSOC provides threat monitoring and situational awareness for domestic incident management 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Interagency Incident Management Group: The Interagency Incident Management Group (IIMG) is to facilitate national-level situation awareness, policy coordination, and incident coordination during domestic incidents. The IIMG is made up of senior representatives from federal departments and agencies, nongovernmental organizations, as well as Department of Homeland Security components to facilitate national-level situation awareness, policy coordination, and incident coordination.

Principal Federal Official: The secretary of homeland security may designate a principal federal official (PFO) during a domestic incident to serve as the personal representative of Department of Homeland Security locally during an incident. The PFO will oversee and coordinate federal incident activities and work with local authorities to determine requirements and provide timely federal assistance.

Joint Field Office: Federal activities at a local incident site will be integrated during domestic incidents to better facilitate coordination between federal, state, and local authorities through a Joint Field Office (JFO). The JFO is expected to incorporate existing entities such as the Joint Operations Center, the Disaster Field Office, and other federal offices and teams that provide support on the scene.

National Incident Management System
In addition to the new emergency planning measures established by the INRP, the Department of Homeland Security and responders from around the United States continue the development of a national incident management system (NIMS) that will create additional standardized coordination procedures for incident managers.
The INRP represents a significant first step toward an overall goal of integrating the current family of federal domestic prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery plans into a single all-disciplines, all-hazards plan. When the INRP is supported by the NIMS, a national system will exist that creates standardized incident management processes, protocols, and procedures.


First Homeland Security Center of Excellence

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security chose the University of Southern California (USC) as the first Homeland Security Center of Excellence (HS-Center). The department anticipates providing the university with $12 million in the next three years for the study of risk analysis related to the economic consequences of terrorist threats and events.

The first HS-Center at USC, known as the Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, will address both the targets and means of terrorism, with emphasis on protecting the nation's critical infrastructure systems, such as electrical power, transportation, and telecommunications. In addition, the HS-Center will develop tools for planning responses to emergencies, to minimize the threat to human lives, and to reduce the economic impact in the event of an attack.

The HS-Center will be headed by Dr. Randolph Hall of USC's School of Engineering, an expert in transportation, logistics, engineering, and mathematical modeling, and Dr. Detlof von Winterfeldt of the USC's School of Policy, Planning, and Development, an expert in risk and decision analysis, with particular interest in the application of these fields to the environment, technology, and weapons of mass destruction. They have assembled a team of experts across the country, to include partnerships with other universities such as New York University, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the University of California at Berkeley.

The HS-Center will leverage USC's expertise in natural disasters, system safety, and nuclear threats. Two existing centers within USC's School of Engineering, the Integrated Media Systems Center (a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center) and the Information Sciences Institute, will also contribute research in advanced computer modeling and cybersecurity.

The HS-Center intends to deliver a strong integrated program of research, education, and technology transfer that uses risk-based economic analysis to advance the nation's security. Courses and a certificate program in risk and decision analysis offered to their distant learning engineering students, development of professional workshops, fellowships, and outreach to local and regional communities are just some of the examples of how USC will integrate education into the HS-Center's research activities.

The Department of Homeland Security and outside advisors reviewed more than 70 proposals to establish the first HS-Center. The department plans to establish a number of additional HS-Centers across a spectrum of short- and long-range research and development areas, such as agroterrorism countermeasures and behavioral research on terrorism.

The HS-Centers program, which is operated by the Department's Science and Technology Division, will establish university-based centers of multidisciplinary research where areas critical to homeland security can be analyzed, debated, and shared. Through this program, the Department of Homeland Security and partner universities will bring together the nation's best experts and focus its most talented researchers on a variety of threats that include chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological, explosive, and cyberterrorism.


From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 2, February 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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