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The National Response Plan is the United States national plan to respond to emergencies such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Within the United States natural disaster response and planning is first and foremost a local government responsibility. When local government exhausts its resources, it then requests specific additional resources from the county level. The request process proceeds similarly from the county to the state to the federal government as additional resource needs are identified.

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) administers the plan. According to the department's website, "In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will provide a coordinated, comprehensive federal response and mount a swift and effective recovery effort. The department assumes primary responsibility for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation."[1] The emphasis is that Homeland Security will assume "primary responsibility" which was created to prevent the uncoordinated response of various local, state, and federal agencies in attack scenarios.

The National Response Plan was updated on May 25, 2006. The Notice of Change stated the update "emerged from organizational changes within DHS, as well as the experience of responding to Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma, and Rita in 2005."

On September 10, 2007, DHS released a draft copy of the National Response Framework as a replacement for the National Response Plan.[2] The National Response Plan was replaced by the National Response Framework on March 22, 2008.[3]

Date on which the plan was invokedEdit

  • August 30, 2005 — Secretary Michael Chertoff invoked the National Response Plan the day after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on the morning of August 29, 2005. By so doing, the Secretary assumed the leadership role triggered by the law to bear primary responsibility to manage said crisis. The invocation occurred due to the inability of local and state government to handle the situation.
  • September 22, 2005 — In advance of the landfall of Hurricane Rita, Chertoff declared the storm an incident of national significance and put preparations in place in the gulf region of Texas.

Background to the development of the National Response PlanEdit

The federal government first actively engaged in emergency management by passing the Congressional Act of 1803, which provided relief after a devastating fire in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. For the about the next 150 years, the federal government took a reactive role in emergency response until passing the Public Law 81-875 in 1950.

No comprehensive plan for federal emergency response existed until 1979, when President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order creating the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) [2]. FEMA was first charged to absorb emergency response duties from multiple agencies with disjointed plans. In 1988 the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act [3] became law. The Stafford Act established a system of federal assistance to state and local governments and required all states to prepare individual Emergency Operations Plans. Also, the Stafford Act authorized the Director of FEMA to prepare a Federal Response Plan (FRP) [4]. The FRP engaged multiple organziations to assist states with disaster preparedness and response and was augmented by the National Contingency Plan (NCP) [5] through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The NCP, in existence since 1968, was primarily mitigated oil spills, but was expanded to include hazardous materials in 1972 with the passing of the Clean Water Act (The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan). In 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, more commonly known as "Superfund," further expanded the scope of the NCP to include emergency removal actions at hazardous waste sites and required regulated facilities to submit contingency plans. The federal government helped state and local officials protect public health and the environment in the event of a hazardous material release or emergency through the NCP.

President Bill Clinton appointed James Lee Witt as the head of FEMA in 1992. Witt, who served as the Director until 2001, substantially changed FEMA to adopt an all- hazards approach to emergency planning. Clinton elevated Witt to a cabinet-level position, giving the Director access to the President. In October of 1994 the Stafford Act was amended to incorporate most of the former Civil Defense Act of 1950. In 1996 the Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan (FRERP) [6] was signed into law. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and FEMA prepared a plan outlining the federal government’s response for peacetime radiological emergencies within the U.S. or its territories. These emergencies could occur at fixed nuclear facilities or during the transportation of radioactive materials, mishaps with nuclear weapons at military research facilities, satellites returning to earth, or terrorist attacks. The FRERP dovetailed perfectly with the FRP in design. By 1996, FEMA developed a guide for individual states to develop individual Emergency Operation Plans known as the Guide for All Hazards Emergency Operations Planning [7].

The Department of Homeland Security, which emerged as a result of the September 11, 2001 attacks, absorbed FEMA in a 2002 reorganization effort.

The NRP establishes a comprehensive all hazards approach to domestic incident management. FEMA had been cultivating the concept of the all in one, all hazard plan since the development of the Federal Response Plan. The National Response Plan is the result of years of work by emergency planners.

ReferencesEdit

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