The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 24, 2002

Supporting First Responders Strengthening Homeland Security

America's first line of defense in any terrorist attack is the "first responder" community - local police, firefighters, and emergency medical professionals. Properly trained and equipped first responders have the greatest potential to save lives and limit casualties after a terrorist attack. Currently, our capabilities for responding to a terrorist attack vary widely across the country. Many areas have little or no capability to respond to terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction. Even the best prepared States and localities do not possess adequate resources to respond to the full range of terrorist threats we face.

Facts About First Responders

  • There are over 1 million firefighters in the United States, of which approximately 750,000 are volunteers.
  • Local police departments have an estimated 556,000 full-time employees including about 436,000 sworn enforcement personnel.

  • Sheriffs' offices reported about 291,000 full-time employees, including about 186,000 sworn personnel.

  • There are over 155,000 nationally registered emergency medical technicians(EMT).
  • 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:

    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.


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