National Response Plan debuts

National Response Plan

Homeland Security Department officials unveiled today the National Response Plan that will, for the first time, provide a standardized federal response coordinated with state, local and tribal jurisdictions to any man-made or natural disaster or incident.

"In the past, I have referred to the National Response Plan as a playbook," Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge said at a press conference. "It makes sure that the quarterback, wide receivers, and offensive line all know how to get to the end zone together. If football isn't your game, it's like sheet music for an orchestra or the script on a movie set."

The plan, he said, establishes processes, protocols and best practices for the federal government to work with state, local and tribal governments and the private sector for all hazards. The plan, which fulfills a presidential directive issued in 2003, will establish standardized training and, organization and communication procedures for an incident involving multiple jurisdictions. It also identifies local jurisdictions and first responders as the primary entities for handling incidents.

It is built on the National Incident Management System (NIMS) that will integrate response practices into a comprehensive framework for managing emergencies nationwide. NIMS is currently being developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and is supposed to be in place by the end of fiscal 2007.

While the National Response Plan and NIMS are not information technology systems, emergency managers and first responders are relying more on technology to help them in their prevention, response, and recovery efforts. By mandating uniform terminology, processes and procedures, government officials hope to better effectively respond to incidents.

The Homeland Security Operations Center, described as a round-the-clock "nerve center," serves as the primary national hub for real-time situational awareness and coordinates incidents and response activities.

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