Joint Hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee's Oversight of Government and State, Local and Private Subcommittees - RDD Attack Response
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SEN. MARK L. PRYOR (D-AR): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I know we have another panel, so going to try not to keep this panel too long.
But let me start with you, Mr. Cannon, if I may, and that is, this is a -- it's really one question, but I'm going to ask it in kind of a series of questions, but it has to do with communication and coordination.
We have several agencies here today and they all have independent statutory authority, so when I see all these agencies lined up here today, you know, the questions I have are, you know, after an initial explosion or an initial incident, who's in charge initially? Are there criteria for when states can and should ask for federal help? Once the federal government gets involved, how does DHS determine which agency should be the lead agency and the lead coordinating agency? Who has the final decision-making authority? Do the roles of the agency change over time and do certain things get handed off?
So we don't have time to go into all that in the limited time we have today, but the question I have for you is, are you confident in the system that we have, in that in the event -- heaven forbid -- but in the event that there is an incident in this country, are you confident that we will be prepared with the right authority and the right agencies being able to work through this?
MR. CANNON: Yes, sir, I am. And I can say that because there have been significant changes in that system in the last two years.
We've all learned many lessons from the past, and all these members today are signatories to the National Response Plan. All agree that the coordination will occur through the National Response Coordination Center, where they all have a seat. They all come down to sit and be engaged with subject matter experts to coordinate. It is the Department of Homeland Security's responsibility to protect the homeland and to coordinate a response to those.
Now, in terms of our involvement, local governments have the initial response authority and the system used for a radiation incident, in terms of the federal government access and involvement, is the same as if it's a hurricane or a tornado: If the locals are overwhelmed then they request through the series. Our role is to make sure that when it gets to the federal government that our response is in a coordinated, effective manner.
And you're exactly right. People with independent authorities do have the ability to respond, but we need to make sure that that's a unified effort of response so that we provide the best thing in the shortest time possible and we exercise that and we do that in day-to- day activity.
SEN. PRYOR: So you have confidence in the system we have in place, then?
MR. CANNON: I do, sir.
SEN. PRYOR: Let me ask Dr. Aoki a question about something that the GAO found not too long ago and that is that the GAO says that the DOE has the capability to survey American cities to create a baseline map when it comes to radiation and that there's some funding out there available for this. My question is -- and it sounds like this has not been done -- my question is, if we have both the capability to do it and the money to do it, why aren't we doing it?
MR. AOKI: Senator Pryor, I think we discussed this a little bit before you came in, but we are actually now moving in cooperation with DHS to first start out with a pilot program in Chicago and then possibly move on to other major metropolitan areas. The funding will be DHS grant funding to cities.
And, at least with the Chicago experience, what they're proposing to do is to purchase equipment that would be flown on their aircraft, their helicopters, operated by the police department, and then we would assist them in planning and conducting the survey portion of that activity.
I think we want to simulate the lessons from doing this in one additional city and then see if that can be translated into many more.
SEN. PRYOR: And so do you have a timetable to move through the cities to try to, you know, get the site maps that you need?
MR. AOKI: We don't have a firm timetable. We expect to get the work in Chicago done this year, or I guess 2008. But we will then see from that what, you know, what is appropriate to do and how many more cities might be interested. There have been expressions of interest from a number of other cities.
SEN. PRYOR: Okay.
Mr. Cannon, let me ask you one further question, and that is, that one of the lessons learned from Chernobyl was that the radioactive contamination can't just be washed away. If it's in dirt or concrete or whatever, you can't just wash it away; it gets in the ground water and it stays around for a long time. Are there any federal guidelines about what to do with contaminated dirt or concrete or other materials that would be, you know, cleaned up during the cleanup effort? What are we going to do with all that material?
MR. CANNON: Senator, I hate to punt, but I believe that would be an EPA issue.
SEN. PRYOR: Okay.
MR. DUNNE: Sure. Senator, there is limited capacity in this country to take radiation debris. There's only a handful of places we could put it. If you took the scenario that has been presented, depending upon what we found, we would have to improvise working with state and local governments and other federal agencies in terms of finding adequate storage, because it just plain doesn't exist on any massive basis. We just haven't had that much radiological disposal issue to deal with.
SEN. PRYOR: Well, is the EPA taking steps and doing --
MR. DUNNE: We have done an analysis of where it is. As you know, permitting for those types of facilities are not just federal government; they're state and local, and it takes a concentrated effort, a long-term effort to be able to get those capacities developed. But it is somewhat similar to the lab capacity problem, is nobody's going to build these things unless they're used. And you just don't go and create a hole in the ground so you can go dispose of this type of activity. So it's a very complicated issue, but that is a significant gap if we ever do have an attack.
SEN. PRYOR: But the question is, is the EPA trying to fill that significant --
MR. DUNNE: Yes, we are doing, through our office, solid waste emergency response with this issue now. But it's a long-term problem and that -- we have analyzed the problem adequately well. It's what are you going to be (sic) your planning premise in terms of what you're going to think about disposal.
SEN. PRYOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-AR): Thank you, Senator Coleman.
We -- if it's okay, we're going to move on to the second panel now. So I'd like to ask the staff to make the arrangements there.
And I want to thank the first panel for all that you've done, the time to prepare to be here. I know you put a lot of time and effort into this, so I appreciate it.
While the first panel is leaving and the second panel is coming up, let me just say a few words. I'd like to reiterate Senator Akaka's thanks to the first panel and some of the things he said in his opening statement.
Our second panel today will focus attention on our response plans at a local and a community level. I'd especially like to welcome Mr. Wayne Tripp from my home state of Arkansas, who will be testifying about the importance of radiation detection and decontamination training for first responders.
But before we get into all the introductions and what everybody is going to say, I would like to say this, that we are -- we know that the dirty bomb threat is real and it is a legitimate danger.
There are two factors that make this particular kind of terrorist attack possible: first, you have motivation; second, you have capability.
Since Osama bin Laden has announced that it's his religious duty to inflict terror on the United States through weapons of mass destruction, we know that the motivation exists.
We also know that it's easier for a terrorist group to develop a dirty bomb capability than a nuclear bomb capability. Unlike a true nuclear weapon, a dirty bomb doesn't require a nuclear reaction; it only requires some means of dispersing radioactive materials.
The most likely scenarios involve a conventional bomb laced with stolen radioactive material. Exploding a dirty bomb in an American city would widely disperse radioactive materials and create a public panic, but the actual casualty rates would likely be low, probably in the tens or maybe hundreds of fatalities. However, the combination of panic -- the reaction of the panic after the bomb and the resulting economic devastation could cause an affected area to be abandoned for years.
Luckily, we have emergency managers and community leaders across the country who are taking steps to prepare for a dirty bomb event now. They've been participating in national exercises so that state and local leaders know how to coordinate with FEMA and DHS. They're learning to use detection equipment and to work while wearing HAZMAT suits. They are also thinking ahead about the psychological and economic needs of our communities in the aftermath of a radioactive weapon.
In Washington and across the country we appreciate and encourage these efforts and I'm eager to learn today how Congress can best help first responders.
So I want to thank the second panel for being here. We're going to have senators coming and going today. We have a busy floor schedule. There's a lot going on in committees around here. So we may have some senators coming and going today, but I want to thank the panel and also notify the panel that you may get some questions in writing after this because not all senators can attend the hearing today.
Let me go ahead and introduce the first witness; its Ken Murphy, director of the Oregon Department of Emergency Management. Mr. Murphy joined the agency in 1999 and served as administrative operations manager and deputy director prior to becoming director. He has extensive experience in the Army, the National Guard and on various homeland security advisory councils.
Then I'd like to hear from Thomas Tenforde; he'll be our second witness. He's the president of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. Mr. Tenforde specializes in developing plans to protect communities from the psychological and economic consequences of a dirty bomb.
He has a B.A. in physics from Harvard and a Ph.D. in biophysics from UC-Berkeley and has written over a 150 scientific articles and reports. And he is with a fellow named Dave Schauer (sp) today.
And Dave played college baseball with a very good friend of mine who now lives in Little Rock. So, anyway, I want to get acquainted with you after the hearing.
But last would be Wayne Tripp. He's the program manager of the Domestic Preparedness Equipment Technical Assistance Program and he oversees a variety of training programs to help first responders use nuclear and radiological detection equipment. He also supports the development, analysis and testing of emergency management, disaster and interoperability communication plans for the government and for private sector clients.
So, again, I want to thank you all for being here today.
And Mr. Murphy, if we can start with you.
MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Chairman Pryor, members of the committee for the opportunity to provide you with this statement for the record on Oregon's Top Official Four Exercise. In my statement I'm representing the state of Oregon, and my office of Emergency Management is a division of the Oregon Military Department.
One of the great benefits of participating in this exercise was the almost two years of planning by all levels of government, the private sector and some most valuable learning and training took place during the planning phase.
There are four key areas I want to highlight: learn and work with your mutual aid partners as much as you can; learn and practice with your state and federal partners; good coordination with policymakers is essential, and cooperation with the private sector is critical to success.
The RDD was somewhat new to portions of the first responder community. In preparations for this exercise it was very important to understand what an RDD was, its characteristics, its intended purposes. It became very important to learn as a group of first responders to include those jurisdictions that would or could provide mutual aid. This allowed for a common understanding of procedures, equipment, and actions to take place during this type of an event.
Working with state and federal partners is where I believe some of the best relationships and learning experiences took place. The practice with state and federal partners provided local responders with another set of tools that help them determine how far they could go, or should go, in dealing with an RDD.
This also taught the state and federal entities what the local first responders were capable of and how the state and federal partners could be more effective during the initial stages of an RDD.
The local first responders and the state of Oregon's National Guard Civil Support Team worked very well together in the initial stages of the event. The civil support team was able to provide more technical assistance immediately and long-term support to the incident commander.
Additionally, as the exercise continued and federal assets arrived from the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, this provided the first responders with more tools and allowed them to deal with other residual events from the RDD, such as the plume moving, and requiring first responders to block off more streets or specific areas of the city.
Information from the incident scene must flow quickly and accurately in which to support policymakers. The information must be accurate and disseminated from the incident command post to policymakers to support their decision making and their communication strategy.
It is also important this information be flowing to more of the technical experts allowing them to provide the science and the advice to policymakers.
Working with the private sector was a rewarding experience. We had approximately 70 private sector partners participate during the planning process and exercise. We had utilities, banking, transportation, commercial, retail and manufacturing -- just to name a few -- that participated.
There's no question or doubt that the private sector must be part of every phase of a city, county and state's planning effort for any event to include an RDD.
I have four areas I want to highlight with the private sector: being part of the entire process, being part of government communications, being part of government emergency operation centers, and part of the decision-making process for recovery.
The private sector has very qualified and trained personnel to deal with emergencies. In the government sector we must take advantage of this expertise and integrate these professionals into each level of government as we plan, train and exercise.
The private sector was involved in the planning, which made a difference in how we responded and how we started to deal with short- term and long-term recovery. As an example, when a first responder had to deal with a private sector entity that was in the plume, the responder did not have to deal with that entity as they might with a neighborhood.
The private sector was better prepared and put in place business continuity plan, thus allowing the first responder to attend the needs of others.
When something bad happens it is imperative that the private sector is notified as soon as possible. In Oregon we created an e- mail and phone system to notify the private sector. This system was for larger organizations. We need to improve upon this in trying to reach private sector groups of different sizes. We are looking at using professional organizations or business alliances to act as focal points during the initial alert phase of the incident and have them relay the message.
The private sector organizations in the greater Portland area are creating a regional communications network for emergencies to begin to address communications. I think this will work well, but we need to expand it statewide.
One of the challenges is to have the private sector representatives in government operations centers. The real issue here is how to organize the private sector so as to have one representative or a small group in the EOC that can coordinate with multiple private sector organizations.
The representatives must be integrated into the government EOCs and able to provide relevant information to multiple private sector organizations.
This will require some training in the National Incidence Management System and participating with the government in training exercises. But I would also submit that government personnel should receive training to participate in private sector exercises.
During the exercise it may be very helpful to have the private sector become part of or know what decisions are being made. In response phase this has allowed the private sector to know what decisions that would affect their business functions. Additionally, they can in some cases offer resources or personnel that we in government may not realize.
Also, during the response phase the private sector can also help in advising or recommending courses of action which may affect your initial recovery plans.
The private sector is key to how the government entities begin to address short-term and long-term recovery and the decision-making process.
TOPOFF was a very intense and a rewarding event for Oregon and the city of Portland. We learned a great deal and we're still learning. We conducted a short-term recovery tabletop the Monday after the exercise finished and -- it was mentioned earlier -- we're now preparing to do a long-term table recovery with our federal partners on December 4th and 5th here in Washington, D.C.
As with any exercise, we must now clearly identify all the lessons learned, correct them quickly and retest the plans and actions to ensure that we have the best procedures and plans in place.
I appreciate Congress's attention and focus on RDDs, the first responders and the private sector. I thank you for your opportunity to testify on behalf of the state of Oregon.
MR. TENFORDE: Senator Pryor, thank you very much for providing an opportunity for the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements to present its views on the important issues that are faced by the United States in preparing for potential acts of radiological terrorism and also to briefly describe the role of NCRP in providing guidance to the government and the public on this very important subject.
NCRP is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1929 and was chartered by Congress in 1964 under Public Law 88-376 to serve as a national resource for recommendations on radiation health protection and radiation measurements.
In October of 2001, one month after the tragic 9/11 event, NCRP issued its landmark Report Number 138 on "Management of Terrorist Events Involving Radioactive Material." This report has subsequently been supplemented by a series of NCRP publications on the important subjects of: first, preparing emergency responders for nuclear and radiological terrorism; secondly, ensuring operational safety of security screening systems for use at ports of entry into the United States and in public areas such as airports; and third, providing medical care for responders and members of the public who might be contaminated by radionuclides as a result of an act of radiological terrorism.
Another new activity of NCRP supported by the Department of Homeland Security is the preparation of a report on "Key Decision Points and Information Needed by Decision Makers in the Aftermath of a Nuclear or Radiological Terrorism Incident." This report will address many of the issues of interest to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security related to effective command and control actions by local, regional, tribal, state and federal responders to an act of radiological terrorism.
It will, in many ways, be complementary to the National Response Plan and will be a document that can be used as a basis for responder training and for carefully coordinating the actions that must be taken during a response to a radiological terrorism incident.
NCRP and the members of its expert scientific committees have remained current in evaluating the preparedness of the United States at the federal, state and local levels for responding to potentially catastrophic acts of radiological terrorism.
On this graphic, I've depicted our view of the three primary components of readiness for such acts.
Oh my, that's interesting -- I'm sorry, this laser pointer had been -- there we go.
Well, the basic elements of this triangle are: at the base, detection and deterrence. And that involves, of course, developing methods for detection and deterrence of entry and use of radiological materials for terrorist actions.
Second -- (aside) -- thank you very much -- should there be an RDD or improvised nuclear device incident, of course, it's essential to mount a rapid and effective response to a nuclear or radiological terrorism incident.
And then, the last phase is performing optimized recovery and restoration activities in sites that are radioactively contaminated by acts of terrorism.
So this is our somewhat high-level and rather simple view of the key elements of U.S. preparedness for radiological terrorism.
We have submitted a five-year proposal to the Department of Homeland Security for the preparation of new reports that will address specific issues in each of these areas that have not previously been addressed in a comprehensive manner. The writing of these reports will involve the efforts of both scientists and stakeholders at the local, state and federal levels involved in preparing for effective responses to radiological terrorism.
A more detailed discussion of the key issues that must be addressed to improve the preparedness of the United States for potential acts of nuclear or radiological terrorism is contained in my written testimony.
I wish to again thank the -- thank Senator Pryor and the subcommittee members for giving me this opportunity to present NCRP's views on actions that must be taken to improve the readiness of the United States for acts of radiological terrorism.
I will conclude by stressing, again, that NCRP is uniquely qualified to assist in strategic planning as the United States prepares for potential acts of radiological terrorism.
Thank you very much.
SEN. PRYOR: Thank you.
MR. TRIPP: Chairman Pryor and members of the subcommittee, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today about something that's very important to me and to my program, which is the preparedness of our nation's first responders and first receivers.
The Domestic Preparedness Equipment Technical Assistance Program -- or as we refer to it, since we get tongue-tied easily, DPETAP -- is a partnership between the Pine Bluff Arsenal, the Department of Homeland Security, and is operated by General Physics.
DPETAP is a nationwide technical assistance equipment training program on capabilities and limitations of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear detection, protection, decontamination and response equipment for our nation's first responders and first receivers.
I'm going to focus my discussion on what we have observed during our more than seven years of providing DPETAP technical assistance to more than 82,000 responders from 45 states, two territories and the District of Columbia. More than 15,000 of these participants have received radiological detection training.
In the field, the majority of detectors that we have observed tend to be of two types: portable survey meters and personal radiation detectors. A personal radiation detector is essentially a small item that a responder would carry on their belt -- such as this pager model -- to alert them that there's an increase in the level of radiation. It's a first alert system -- doesn't tell them a significant amount about what the threat they're facing is, just that there is something potentially there.
Portable survey meters are things such as these two models here. These are used to both identify the type of radiation that might be present in an area, as well as the intensity and distribution of that radiation. It's useful for both surfaces, as well as for personnel to identify whether casualties have radiological contamination on them.
In terms of the participants in our training, we found that more than 74 percent of those who've attended the DPETAP training have come from the fire service. About six percent are from law enforcement and the remainder from a number of different disciplines.
The types and distribution of equipment vary widely across agencies and across the nation, as well as the age of the equipment they are using and their familiarity with it.
The rapid identification of the risk of radiation, as was mentioned on the earlier panel, is critical activity. This sooner it's identified, the sooner appropriate protective measures are taken.
One of the key actions that should occur is decontamination: the removal of radiation from the victims and from evacuees from an affected area. Ideally this happens very close to the incident site.
DPETAP has provided decontamination training to more than 6,500 responders and first receivers from 443 agencies. The training provides them with skills and abilities to implement their plans and their procedures to rapidly process a large number of potentially contaminated individuals. We found that this is a very important type of training, particularly for hospitals that would be on the receiving end of any self-evacuated casualties.
The training we provide in decontamination and detection is only one component of achieving proficiency. Personnel need to be also working under appropriate plans and procedures that identify when to deploy their technologies, when to use them and what to do if radiation is detected. These plans, procedures and the training are validated using exercises such as TOPOFF4.
A well-designed exercise and well-evaluated exercise develops an after-action report and improvement plan that identifies very specific recommendations for additional training, planning or procedures that is based on solid guidance or standards.
Fortunately, the vast majority of explosions in this nation are not radiological. Response to one that does contain radiation, however, will likely begin this same as every other response to an explosion. Early use of detection to identify the presence of radiation is critical to stopping the spread by evacuation of contaminated individuals and casualties to the hospitals and ensuring that those affected are appropriately protected and decontaminated.
The continuous cycle of planning, training and exercises with effective after-action review and improvement planning is key to the long-term enhancement of the front-line personnel across the nation that would be upon called to respond to a terrorist incident.
Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you today. And I am available to answer any questions you have.
SEN. PRYOR: Thank you.
Thank all of you for your comments.
Let me start with you, if I might, Mr. Tripp. And again, welcome to Washington. It's good to have you up here from Arkansas.
And just so everybody will know, the DPETAP program was something that we've been fighting for in the committee, and my office has been fighting for, to keep the funding for DPETAP because it's a very economical way to do training and to help first responders and first receivers out there around the country do what they're supposed to do. And it's been a very strong program for a long time. So we're going to continue to fight that fight up here.
But let me talk about -- let me ask about the existing state guidance that the federal government is giving about national agencies being involved. At DPETAP, do you all get into some of that -- sort of the chain of command issues when there's an incident like this where -- you know, where does the federal government fit in? Where do the state people fit in? Where do the local people fit in? Do you all get into that --
MR. TRIPP: To a certain degree. All of our technical assistance training, particularly our practical exercises, incorporates the National Incident Management System, NIMS, into our framework.
As part of the training around the deployment and the operational survey techniques and advanced survey techniques, we also provide information about reach-back -- the -- what agencies are appropriate -- might be available to support the responders and the appropriate methods for activating that support, working through the chain of command from the incident command or unified command post, through the local or county emergency operations center, then through the request up to the state operations center, to then have them act -- request appropriate federal support.
SEN. PRYOR: You know, in your testimony you talk about human exposure to radiological materials and, you know, the contamination of people. And as I understand it, and you tell me if I'm wrong, but as I understand it, if you respond quickly, it's fairly easy to get the radiation off a person. You take your clothes and have to dispose of them in some way. And then you can basically wash off a lot of the radiation. Is that right?
MR. TRIPP: That is correct.
SEN. PRYOR: One of the problems is that if you inhale materials and, you know, somehow they get into your system, they you -- that's a different matter. But just the more general exposure -- if you act quickly a lot of people will be perfectly fine. Is that your understanding?
MR. TRIPP: That's a fairly accurate statement, yes, sir.
The prompt removal of the radiation contamination from the exterior -- from the hair, clothing, skin -- removes the vast majority of risk for the individual, if it's done quickly. The danger rises, as you noted, if the contamination gets inside the body through drinking water, inhaling it, through an open wound and also from the contaminated individual leaving the incident site in bringing that contamination with them, whether it's to the hospital or to their home.
SEN. PRYOR: Okay. Let me ask this: You cited some statistics about DPETAP and how many you've trained, et cetera.
But what's your impression of the percentage of first responders and first receivers out there around the country -- what's your impression of the percentage of them who have the appropriate level of training for something like this?
MR. TRIPP: I believe -- if I -- what we have seen through the DPETAP training -- that it -- the areas that have a awareness of the risk, an awareness of the threat, whether it's through a nuclear power plant or through a terrorist threat, there's a fairly high level of attention and training and equipping that has occurred. In areas that aren't as aware of the threat or don't perceive it to be a threat to their area, there's a much lower level of preparedness and equipping.
SEN. PRYOR: So you're talking about a geographical difference there, really. Is there also a difference, or an unevenness in the training that people receive, say, for example, firefighters versus policemen versus hospital workers versus, you know, whatever it may be, paramedics? Is that inconsistent from place to place as well?
MR. TRIPP: That tends to be much more consistent in the way the distribution breaks out. The vast majority tend to be firefighters that have received detection-related training because of their generally dominant role or preeminent role in hazardous materials response.
Law enforcement has received less. Most of what we've seen in terms of law enforcement had been things such as the radiation pagers -- the personal alerting devices to warn them that there's a risk.
Hospitals are increasing their level of awareness and their level of training, but there's still a significant gap between where they are and where they want to be.
SEN. PRYOR: Okay. Let me also ask -- this is really for you, Mr. Tripp, and also for you, Mr. Murphy. In the event of a dirty bomb -- heaven forbid that would happen -- but in the event of a dirty bomb, really the first consideration would be to identify and help those who had been directly affected by the blasts or the radiation.
But then there's a second priority which is also present and that it is that, basically, this area is a crime scene. And are the -- is the -- does the response to the incident does it trample over the crime scene in such a way that we're destroying evidence or that we're not mindful of the investigation that's going to start very, very quickly after an incident? Do you all cover that in DPETAP?
And I'd like to get your thoughts on it, too.
MR. TRIPP: In DPETAP what we do is we stress the importance of awareness of their surroundings as they're going in to assist the victims to be aware that -- to try not to move things, watch what you're stepping in. If you observe something that looks like it might be important, mark it somehow so that it can be flagged as evidence. If you need to move it, make a note that you had to move it to access victims. But we stress the importance of maintaining the integrity of the criminal incident as much as you can while you're attempting to save lives.
SEN. PRYOR: Mr. Murphy, did you all cover that in Oregon?
MR. MURPHY: Yes, Senator. And I would just add to that to something we did coordinate. And one of the benefits that's been around since the Department of Homeland Security started a lot of their training programs and their basic awareness courses in operation courses -- that is one of the common themes that we teach -- or that we receive teachings on is how to deal with the response (verse ?) a crime scene.
But I suspect, in reality, you know, there's always a great chance that some of that potential forensics evidence could be destroyed. But that is something that's taught commonly and something that we prepared for for TOPOFF.
SEN. PRYOR: Good. Mr. Murphy, let me ask you, while I've got you -- and then I'm going to turn it over to Chairman Akaka here in just a moment -- but I'm curious about -- with TOPOFF and your other experience there in the state of Oregon, I'm curious about the intelligence. And when various intelligence agencies gather intelligence, they make threat assessments. Do you know when they let you know to be prepared for something? Or is there some sort of protocol or process that they go through that's a standard protocol or process where you are notified, you are alerted under certain conditions? What's your experience there?
MR. MURPHY: Senator Pryor, my experience so far with this has been that, you know, number one, you must have a well-established relationship, I think, with the law enforcement community no matter who they represent -- city, county, state, federal or the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
In Oregon we have a relationship where they will alert me -- maybe not be able to tell me all the details because it does involve a crime or potential crime, but very simple to let me know that within a certain time frame this could happen or may happen. And they've also agreed to tell if it's imminent.
And this has been a fairly coordinated effort through the fusion center in the state. And it's been just a good custom to let people know. They won't give you a lot of the details. But I know, as far as I'm concerned, in my state, you know, as long as I know the potential is there, I can start taking actions. I don't need to know a lot of the specific details.
SEN. PRYOR: So just for clarification, are you talking about just the information being shared within the state, or are you talking about when it comes down from the federal level? So in other words, are you involved at all when the intelligence or the threat assessment is made at the federal level and when that's shared and how that's shared with the state?
MR. MURPHY: Yes, I was speaking at the state level. But the federal intelligence -- we do receive that, both to our fusion centers, the Homeland Security Information Network. And we are notified of that also. And that can either be by computer or actual telephone calls, because we're in a call-down list for any type of intelligence that may be breaking or critical.
SEN. PRYOR: As far as you can tell, that process is working well right now?
MR. MURPHY: So far, yes, sir.
SEN. PRYOR: Okay.
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SEN. PRYOR: Thank you.
Let me pick up there, if I may, with you, Mr. Murphy, and that is, you went through the TOPOFF exercise, which sounds like it was a very good experience. But, you know, my experience with some of those kind of things, and I know the Stimson Center's Domestic Preparedness Project, they made the same comment, is oftentimes a state like Oregon will go and participate and it's great, but then after it's over, you're left with the dilemma of you really don't have enough money to follow through on some of the needs that you realize you have.
Is that the situation at Oregon and other states are in, that you need more resources?
MR. MURPHY: Senator, I think right now it might be a little bit early in our process of our after-actions to determine all the things that we do need. The things that we've determined initially, as far as updates to our plans and our procedures and things like that, I think we could take care of.
If we do come across certain items that are equipment or require fairly large sums of money, I'm hoping that as we continue through the homeland security grant process or our state legislative process that we can build that into our state strategies and hopefully have them funded. But I don't have any specifics, but I would be happy to provide those at a later time because I'm sure some of them will cost money that we may not have.
SEN. PRYOR: All right.
Mr. Murphy, let me ask you -- and Mr. Tenforde -- a follow-up from the first panel. I asked the question, I talked a little bit about Chernobyl and one of the lessons there is there was all this material that they didn't know what to do with. And you heard one of the witnesses earlier say that basically the EPA doesn't really have a plan. They've thought about it, but it's a huge undertaking, long- term problem. Is that true on the state level as well? Are the states looking at what to do with radiologically tainted material?
MR. MURPHY: Yes, Senator. I will tell you that the same problems or issues you may have heard in the first panel this morning are very similar to the state. You know, one of my passions of this exercise that I feel is very important is what we are going to do about long-term recovery and whether it's debris or psychological issues or economic issues. And we even learned from a few years back, Washington state had some potential mad cow issues and we even had discussions about what to do with that type of debris, let alone something that's radiological.
So it's something that we're clearly trying to figure out and I think, as was mentioned earlier, we're having a tabletop exercise here in a couple of weeks in Washington, D.C. to just talk about those type of specific issues and identify the problems and what we might be able to do short term and long term to fix them.
SEN. PRYOR: And Mr. Tenforde, did you have any comments on that, on what to do with the nuclear or the radiologically tainted material?
MR. TENFORDE: I believe that is a very critical issue. Actually it is part of the optimization process as we see it at NCRP and which I believe others see it as well, that one needs to carefully classify the contaminated materials that are generated through an RDD or other nuclear incident and treat them appropriately. There may be a possibility of using rather common landfill procedures that EPA uses to dispose of material that is not very contaminated.
We do not expect for an RDD to have high levels of material contamination except perhaps in the immediate location of the event. And there may be many, many -- well, many hundreds of thousands or even millions of cubic meters of very slightly contaminated material that needs to be appropriately either decontaminated or disposed of. And I believe the representative Mr. Dunne from EPA stated it well, that there is a national need, really, for more landfills and other disposal mechanisms for low-level radioactively contaminated materials.
So I would agree it is a serious need. But I believe that one has to approach this in a very systematic way that really looks optimally at the disposal options and doesn't discard low-level material in treating it as higher-level waste.
SEN. PRYOR: Mr. Murphy, I had a couple more questions for you, and that is apparently Oregon has created a system to notify the private sector in emergencies. Is that working well, and could you just briefly describe what you do there?
MR. MURPHY: Well, it's nothing fancy, Senator. It's really we're just using telephones and e-mails and trying to be able to focus on how you could call just one or two people in the private sector that could represent a larger group.
We've been kind of experimenting, really, as you well know, and when you look at the entire breadth and width of the private sector, there are so many different parts and pieces, depending on if they're manufacturing or commercial or critical infrastructure.
So what we've used in the private sector has taken on the responsibility after TOPOFF to try and refine this system of how to have them, if you will, represent themself as a group and then sub- notify and maybe a cascading telephone tree or an e-mail tree and then other types of redundant communications and how they could be notified just like I would be notified that an event is pending or something has happened and we need them to participate.
So I'll provide you the results as we work. We're going to start on a regional level in the greater Portland area and then, depending on what we learn, try and expand that statewide. And especially how do you account for the very smaller private sector organizations instead of the larger ones?
SEN. PRYOR: The last question I have for you, Mr. Murphy, is about the TOPOFF exercise. Seems to me it would be hard to duplicate the panic effect that you might have with a radiological incident. Do you feel like TOPOFF did a good job of trying to capture the sense of panic and the ramifications of mass panic?
MR. MURPHY: Senator, I think they did a good job, but -- my staff would probably throw me out, but I think we should have protracted that a couple more days to try and create some more panic and make people think about that, because I don't think we experienced enough during the exercise. I mean, the people that directly participated did, and the Virtual News Network, but to really experience the depth and width of what might happen to the panic that would come from the public, I don't think we got to experience as much as we should have, and especially for our policymakers and top officials. And how would they deal with that? What is the communication strategy? Because you have those that surely know they might be affected. You have the worried well. You have the people that may depend economically on a portion of Portland's economy and they're questioning and they're panicking.
And so I think we started into it, but we did not get to deal with it or practice the issues as much as I would have liked.
SEN. PRYOR: Yeah. Just as a personal note, we had a taste of that here in the Senate a few years ago. It was right before I came to the Senate, where they had the anthrax incident here. And, you know, people didn't know what to do. And when people don't know what to do and you fear the worst and -- so anyway, it's real. That's a real factor in how we respond to this.
Those are all the questions I have.
Senator Akaka, do you have any more?
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