June 22-26, 2001

 
 
ADOPTED RESOLUTIONS: CRIMINAL AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION PREPAREDNESS AND MAYORS AS FIRST RESPONDERS

WHEREAS, mayors are the elected leaders of their communities with responsibility for the management of public safety personnel including police, fire and emergency response; and

WHEREAS, mayors have dedicated significant effort to preparing themselves, their city personnel and their citizens for the possibility of natural disasters, and to efforts designed to minimize damage and save lives; and

WHEREAS, mayors have worked closely with regional, state and federal partners in developing coordinated preparedness efforts focused on natural disasters; and

WHEREAS, in recent years, the issue of domestic terrorism, and specifically a weapons of mass destruction terrorist attack, has become a concern for the nation as a whole and mayors as the leaders of their communities, with extensive discussion being held at national Conference of Mayors meetings and with top federal officials; and

WHEREAS, The U.S. Conference of Mayors has been working with the U.S. Department of Justice to develop a mayoral training institute on weapons of mass destruction to prepare mayors for the roles and responsibilities they must assume during a WMD event; and

WHEREAS, managing a local weapons of mass destruction attack may be significantly different from a more traditional natural disaster in that:

  • the scale of potential damage which could be caused by a weapons of mass destruction terrorist attack are enormous;
  • there may be no warning prior to the attack, and it may take time for the "public health system" to determine that there has been an attack, with resulting medical ramifications;
  • it will take time to analyze the specific nature of the attack agent, and to determine if medical treatments are available;
  • it may be difficult to determine when the attack has ended; and

WHEREAS, it is estimated that it will take between 36 and 72 hours following an attack for available federal resources to be fully operational in a city; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has available important resources including equipment, personnel and supplies which can and must be utilized in the event of a weapons of mass destruction event; and

WHEREAS, in most cases, mayors do not control the "public health system." With the exception of some city and county publicly-owned and operated hospitals, the general public's health care needs are met by private institutions, institutions which, while regulated to a certain degree, are not strictly managed by local governments. However, it is the local health departments who will be alerted by these health care providers at the onset of a weapons of mass destruction event; and

WHEREAS, it is clear from modeling examples that the "public health system" will be quickly overwhelmed by even a modest weapons of mass destruction event in a city of almost any size. While a citizen knows when they have been shot, or when their house has been hit by a natural disaster, they may not know how to tell if they have been exposed to a biological or chemical weapon. Hospitals and doctors offices will be overrun with not only the sick, but those who fear contamination; and

WHEREAS, the decisions made by mayors and their public safety personnel during a weapons of mass destruction event, such as the possibility of imposing travel restrictions or even local area quarantines, will have major ramifications for not only their cities, but for the public safety of the entire nation; and

WHEREAS, a multiplicity of federal agencies have responsibility for helping cities prepare for a possible weapons of mass destruction event, and for the incident and the incident consequences stages of an attack, and an effort is underway to coordinate these federal efforts; and

WHEREAS, President George W. Bush on May 8, 2001 released a statement announcing that Vice President Dick Cheney will oversee the development of a coordinated national effort against terrorism. The Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA)would be responsible for implementing the national effort through the Office of National Preparedness, coordinating all federal programs dealing with weapons of mass destruction consequence management within the Departments of Defense, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls for increased federal efforts to provide equipment and training directly to mayors and their public safety personnel to train and prepare for a weapons of mass destruction event, with a particular focus on communication systems inter-operability; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the federal government should continue to provide significant resources to develop a training curriculum specifically for mayors as the "first responders" to a weapons of mass destruction terrorist attack; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the federal government expand their initiative to enter into agreements with cities to provide resources including training, assessment, equipment, personnel, supplies, and better facilitation of regional planning in the preparation for and response to a weapons of mass destruction event; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the federal government should assist in a coordinated training effort for private sector health care personnel so that doctors and nurses are able to quickly spot a possible attack, identify the symptoms of a biological or chemical agent, and know what public health steps are necessary to mitigate the adverse public health consequences; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Conference of Mayors specifically supports increased funding for a network which would improve a local health department's response to a weapons of mass destruction emergency by providing resources for the coordination of services between the health department and other essential local, state, and Federal agencies; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the White House and the Office of National Preparedness work closely with local governments to ensure that planning, training, equipment and personnel needs are addressed.