On April 19, 1995, a truck bomb exploded outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City (Bullock, Haddow. & Coppola, 2013, 35). There were 168 people killed in the attack, which included 19 children who were at a daycare in the building. The Murrah building was destroyed and twenty five other buildings were severely damaged or destroyed (Bullock, Haddow. & Coppola, 2013, 36). Three hundred other buildings were damaged and 674 people were injured. Rescue and recovery efforts lasted 16 days and involved 11 FEMA urban search and rescue teams from across the country that assisted local and state search efforts. These teams searched for survivors and bodies of victims.
Initially, rescuers from the Oklahoma City Fire Department entered the building not knowing if it was stable and could continue to support its own weight (Bullock, Haddow. & Coppola, 2013, 36). Within 5 hours, the first FEMA teams were deployed for search and rescue. Eleven of the 27 FEMA task forces worked in the building and coordinated with local fire departments, police departments, and military and federal agencies during search and rescue efforts (Bullock, Haddow. & Coppola, 2013, 37). Through this was re-stabilization efforts, rescuing trapped victims, and breaking through concrete. A plan was developed to deal with psychological and emotional issues of rescuers. Workers were debriefed by a plan in advance so they would be aware of what they might see and experience in their efforts.
At the time of this bombing, Congress was debating the Nunn-Lugar-Dominici legislation that was aimed at being better prepared for terrorist attacks (Bullock, Haddow. & Coppola, 2013, 37). This legislation set up a primary authority and focus or domestic federal preparedness. There were several agencies involved including FEMA, the DOJ, and Department of Health and Human Services, DOD, and the National Guard. These agencies had been pursuing their own agendas and previous attempts at coordination were unsuccessful. State and local governments were confused by the approach of the federal government and the federal government did not recognize local vulnerabilities. Lack of communication led to interagency disagreements in deciding who would be in charge of terrorism. It was unclear if the effort should be led by fire or police departments, emergency management, or emergency medical personnel.
In order to have effective communication, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery components are needed (Bullock, Haddow. & Coppola, 2013, 585). There are five assumptions that are necessary for effective disaster communication which include customer focus, leadership commitment, inclusion of communications in planning and operations, situational awareness, and media partnership.
Bullock, J. A., Haddow, G. D. & Coppola, D. P. (2013). Introduction to homeland security (5th ed.). Waltham, MA: Elsevier Inc.
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