Eco-terrorism. Biological warfare. Weapons of Mass Destruction. These may sound like elements of the latest blockbuster movie, but they’re a real threat to public safety.
In an effort to prepare government officials and civic leaders who manage local, state, and national emergency services, the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC), and the US Department of Justice, have developed a three-year course at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service: “Leadership Development for Integrated Emergency Response Program” (LDIER).
Eighteen LDIER participants observed a dynamic, reality-based press conference on August 7, 2001. Panelists reacted to a mock terrorist incident involving a biological weapon. This scenario was recently used at the National Governor’s Conference. Veteran Public Information Officers Bob Doguim, Houston FBI, and Lt. Robert Van Pelt, Harris County, responded to media questions from Mike Graczyk, Associated Press, and Joe Brown, KBTX-TV. Brenda Sims, TAMU System Communications Director, served as the panel moderator.
“This is about preparedness for any situation,” says John Guido, a retired FBI agent and director of the program. “We’re training leadership to be better equipped to handle all kinds of hazards; not just weapons of mass destruction or terrorism, but natural disasters, accidents, anything that can happen in communities around the country.”
This activity was just one of many during a week-long session, including presentations with experts in the areas of chemical/biological weapons, management, national threat assessment, foreign animal disease, legal issues, and public health. The three-year LDIER program culminated with a graduation from the course.