On this 20th anniversary of the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001, I am reminded of the selfless contributions that shaped the nations response to Americans in need.
All of us have our own 9/11 story, we know where we were, what we were doing and what we did in the immediate days following this tragedy.
Every member of society had a role in assuring resiliency in our democratic way of life. Public safety representatives were called upon to provide homeland defense and security at levels previously only reserved for significant planned events like inaugurations, Super Bowl’s and other mass gathering environments.
The Fire Service was tasked with executing reliable chemical, biological, radiologic, nuclear and explosive device prevention, response and recovery strategies. We trained, exercised and made ready our capabilities to mitigate the consequences of the now “imagined-unimaginable.”
Post 9/11 federal funding in the form of Nunn-Lugar Domenici DOJ grants, Urban Area Security Initiative grants, the Metropolitan Medical Response system and the State Homeland Security Grant Program all served to increase the American Fire Service’s ability to prevent and respond to man made and naturally occurring catastrophes.
We were asked to put these skills to work immediately with the emergence of biological threats (anthrax), active shooter incidents, hurricanes, earthquakes and most recently worldwide pandemic planning and response.
In Arizona, fire-based emergency medical service delivery is the foundation of out of hospital EMS response systems. We rely on a collaborative community of public health and safety partners to assure optimal care for our citizens.
Relationships with hospitals, public health agencies, nonprofits for mass care and corporate partners are vital to the continuity of government, public health and safety.
Substantial efforts have been made since the events of 9/11 to cultivate these relationships and merge our combined interest. The greatest representation of improvement in this area is the efficiency within which EMS providers, hospital systems and governmental public health agencies have coordinated their efforts to minimize the impact of the current pandemic on society.
There is work to do still, specifically in one of the core areas of recommendations in The 9/11 Commission Report (9-11commission.gov) pg. 397, where “Emergency response agencies nationwide should adopt the Incident Command System (ICS)…….. and adopt Unified Command.”
Law Enforcement, Fire and EMS should continue to learn, train and exercise the methods of unified command on routine calls for service so that when larger incidents occur it is second nature to seek out your public safety partners and manage the incident together. This will assure the greatest likelihood of effective incident communications.
In Scottsdale, police, fire and emergency management work hand in hand to effectively manage incidents and events from an “all-hazards” perspective.
In closing, of the 2,977 souls lost that day most were civilians, including flight personnel, except for 343 firefighters; 71 law enforcement officers and 55 military personnel.
Their memories are forever honored by public safety professionals as we continue to utilize the hard lessons learned that day and the days, months and years that followed that have improved our response systems. As we approach this most significant day, we keep our eyes focused on that mission and pray for their families as the fallen rest in peace.
Editor’s Note: Tom Shannon is chief of the Scottsdale Fire Department.