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Facts About First Responders

The President's 2003 Budget proposes to spend $3.5 billion on enhancing the homeland security response capabilities of America's first responders - a greater than 10-fold increase in Federal resources. This initiative will accomplish the following objectives:

  • Provide the first responder community with much-needed funds to conduct important planning and exercises, purchase equipment, and train their personnel.
  • Provide States and localities with the flexibility they require to ensure that the funds are used to address the needs of their local communities.
  • Establish a consolidated, simple, and quick method for dispersing Federal assistance to States and localities.
  • Encourage mutual aid across the Nation so that the entire local, State, Federal, and volunteer network can operate together effectively.
  • Establish a process for evaluating the effort to build response capabilities, in order to validate that effort and direct future resources.
  • Encourage citizens to participate actively in preparing their communities for the threat of terrorism and other disastrous events.

To achieve these objectives, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will implement a streamlined and simple procedure designed to speed the flow of resources to the States and localities. The funds may be used for the following types of first responder activities:

Planning.   The program will support State and local governments in developing comprehensive plans to prepare for and respond to a terrorist attack.

Equipment.   The program will allow State and local first responder agencies to purchase a wide range of equipment needed to respond effectively to a terrorist attack, including personal protective equipment, chemical and biological detection systems, and interoperable communications gear.

Training.   The First Responder Initiative will also provide resources to train firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians to respond and operate in a chemical or biological environment.

Exercises.  The program will support a coordinated, regular exercise program to improve response capabilities, practice mutual aid, and assess operational improvements and deficiencies.

Strengthening America's first responder community will make our homeland safer. Nearly two million first responders regularly put their lives at risk to save lives and make our country safer. Hundreds of firefighters, police officers and emergency medical workers gave their lives on September 11 as they worked to save others. The First Responder Initiative will help these brave Americans do their jobs better. Building on existing capabilities at the Federal, State, and local level, the First Responder Initiative provides an incentive to develop mutually supportive programs that maximize effective response capability. Through joint planning, clear communication, comprehensive coordination, mutual aid at all levels and increased information sharing, America's first responders can be trained and equipped to save lives in the event of a terrorist attack.

The benefits of building first responder capability are immediate and widespread - making the nation safer from terrorist attacks while also bolstering everyday response capabilities.