House committee passes Donovan, Fitzpatrick bill to help first responders prepare for terror attacks

The House Homeland Security Committee approved a bill led by U.S. Reps. Dan Donovan (R-NY) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) to reauthorize a nationwide workshop series that prepares first responders for potential terrorist attacks.

The Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series (JCTAWS) Act of 2017, H.R. 3284, would enhance a nationwide workshop series that helps federal, state and local first responders prevent, prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks.

“Quick and decisive action is crucial when responding to an active terror situation, and exhaustive planning is the key to preparedness,” said Donovan, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications. “This is a good bill that will help local authorities maintain readiness if and when they’re faced with a terror attack.”

Since 2011, the workshops have been hosted in more than 30 cities across the country. These workshops enable police, fire, emergency medical service, public health officials and the private sector to review and improve current terrorism response plans and to learn about best practices.

“From Mumbai to Paris, we’ve seen the devastating impact of coordinated terrorist attacks on civilian targets,” Fitzpatrick, a former FBI special agent and EMT, said. “In these cases, first responders including local police, fire and emergency medical personnel are the main response force. It is crucial these men and women have the training and tools to operate in these planned attacks.”

After each workshop, the host city works with the FBI, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Counterterrorism Center to draft a summary report that outlines findings and strategies to eliminate gaps in response plans.

“These multidisciplinary exercises help local jurisdictions prepare for the threat of complex, coordinated terrorist attacks,” John Sinclair, a fire chief and president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, said. “Local jurisdictions must be prepared to respond to multiple incidents at the same time involving active shooter incidents, explosives and the use of fire as a weapon.”