Edited Version of March 7, 2001 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation

"National Domestic Preparedness Office (NDPO)"

Richard Sanders
National Domestic Preparedness Office

Amy Sebring, Moderator
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the March 7, 2001 online Virtual Library presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Library Archives (http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/livechat.htm). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers to participants’ questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.

[Opening / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum!

We are very pleased to host the discussion today. Our speaker is Richard Sanders, Intelligence Operations Specialist in the National Domestic Preparedness Office. Rich is a 10-year veteran of the FBI. He is assigned in the Information Sharing/Outreach Unit and is primarily responsible for managing The Beacon, the NDPO's monthly newsletter, and the Common Communication Link, as well as other information sharing and outreach projects. If you will, please look at the first slide that explains the mission of the NDPO. I will give you a few moments to download the slide and read it before turning the program to our featured speaker.


Welcome Rich, and thank you for joining us today. I turn the floor to you now.


Rich Sanders: Thanks Amy. Good afternoon and thanks for joining us today to talk about the National Domestic Preparedness Office, or NDPO. I do look forward to our discussion after the presentation.

The NDPO is an interagency office, hosted by the FBI, to coordinate the federal efforts in assisting state and local emergency responders with WMD preparedness issues. We also act as an information clearinghouse for WMD-related information. Our federal partners include EPA, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, FEMA, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the National Guard Bureau.

The history of the NDPO can be traced back to August 1998. The Attorney General invited over 200 leaders in the emergency response community to a Stakeholders' Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. During this conference, the attendees discussed the federal government's fractured and uncoordinated response to WMD preparedness and offered recommendations to the Attorney General. These recommendations were to identify a single lead federal agency to serve as a clearinghouse and coordinate the distribution of federal programs and guidance to state and local communities; and to identify a single program office to integrate programs for terrorism-related assistance.

Based on these recommendations, the Attorney General announced the formation of the NDPO in October 1998.


During the past two years, NDPO staff has been working on developing an internal infrastructure to ensure the success of the office. We have also been establishing relationships with our federal partners, professional associations, state and local WMD preparedness groups, and Congressional Staff members. We have been trying to build a strong ship so that when we receive funding, we can effectively carry out our mandated mission. In January of this year, we received $1.4 million for operating costs and additional funding to relocate out of the FBI Headquarters building.


A critical component of our office is the State and Local Advisory Group, or SLAG. The SLAG is composed of 32 members that represent the entire emergency response spectrum including health and medical personnel. Their primary mission is to provide advice to the federal government about the needs of the state and local authorities for their response to a WMD incident. The group will also be instrumental in selecting a WMD Training Curriculum Review Panel and assisting with a national strategy for WMD preparedness.

The NDPO is made up of six program functions that represent the areas of WMD preparedness that need to be addressed: Planning, Training, Exercises, Equipment, Information Sharing, and Health and Medical.


Our Planning program is designed to assist state and local authorities with WMD planning issues. We have developed a series of links to state/local/federal plans on our Common Communications Link that I'll talk about later. Using these electronic links, we're in the process of creating a planning clearinghouse.

The Planning program also coordinated the creation of the On-Scene Commander's Guide for Responding to Chemical and Biological Threats. We gathered 37 of the top experts in chem/bio response to create a series of checklists for the commander who arrives at a WMD threat situation. This is a small guide that fits into a pocket or glove compartment for easy access.

Staff in the Planning program have also been working with the National Fire Academy, FEMA, and the FBI to work on the Incident Command System (ICS)/Joint Operations Center (JOC) integration. We tested the plan during an exercise in Emmitsburg, MD, and the results were very positive from both the ICS and JOC perspectives. I would like to refer you to an article in our November 2000 Beacon for an update on the integration project. [http://www.ndpo.gov/beacon/2000/nov2000.pdf]

We are also working on a clearinghouse of "Best Practices" for the emergency response community. We will publish different ideas/plans/procedures that illustrate what communities from around the country are doing in WMD preparedness.

Our goal is to promote dialogue in this arena and spark interest in communities that are really only beginning their WMD preparedness activities.


Our training program is currently acting as a clearinghouse for WMD training courses. We now update and maintain the Compendium of Federal WMD Courses that was previously managed by the Army's Soldier Biological and Chemical Command.

We have established a comprehensive list of state and local training links through each state's Emergency Management Agencies. This list enables emergency responders an opportunity to research various training opportunities available in neighboring states and communities. This list is on our Web site at <http://www.ndpo.gov> and the Common Communication Link.

We are also working on coordinating WMD distance learning modules. We currently have one module on terrorism designed by the National Fire Academy. These modules will be distributed through the Common Communication Link.

One of the main missions of our Training program will be to establish a Curriculum Review Panel. This panel will set up standards for WMD training courses to ensure that emergency responders are taking courses that meet at the very least minimal standards set by the panel. Currently, this project is in the planning stages, but now that we have been funded, we will be working with our SLAG to begin this initiative.


Our Exercise program is designed to provide WMD exercise guidance and support to emergency responders. We have established links to state and local exercise web pages, much like the training web pages mentioned previously, so responders can find out if a neighboring state is scheduling an exercise. Exercise program staff are also reviewing various after-action tracking systems to establish a national standard for exercise after-action reporting.

Now that the NDPO is funded, we will be developing an Exercise Handbook that will include scenarios and other useful suggestions for exercise planners.


The NDPO's Equipment program works very closely with the Interagency Board for Equipment Standardization and Interoperability (IAB). We help them disseminate information about their Standardized Equipment List (SEL) and other products. The SEL is located on our Common Communication Link. The IAB also assisted the NDPO with an Information Bulletin about "Chemical/Biological Equipment Questions for Procurement Officials."


Our Information Sharing / Outreach program has built an information sharing system using the Internet, Law Enforcement Online (LEO), and a list serve to disseminate WMD preparedness and NDPO information directly to emergency responders.

We publish The Beacon, which is the NDPO's monthly newsletter. We also publish Special Bulletins that are alerts/warnings about trends in WMD terrorism. We publish Information Bulletins that highlight important information that is not based on operational or threat matters. Our bulletins enable us to send information quickly to the community. They are sent to state, local, and federal responders and professional trade associations.

The Common Communication Link (CCL) is the cornerstone of the NDPO's information sharing efforts. The CCL, which is hosted by LEO, is designed to be the national standard for WMD preparedness electronic communications and information sharing efforts. Access to the CCL is free.

The system has two prongs: (1) Communication tools and (2) information resources. The communication tools include secure e-mail, chat capabilities, and news groups. The information resources include NDPO-related products, such as The Beacon, special information bulletins, and other documents, links to federal, state, and local WMD preparedness information, and distance learning modules.

We are also researching web portals to specifically search out WMD-related information. This portal will assist the user in searching the Internet and the CCL for very specific information on WMD issues.


Our Health and Medical program area works closely with HHS to integrate health professionals into all aspects of WMD preparedness, including training, exercises, and planning. We have compiled a great deal of WMD-related health and medical information on the CCL, and we have started an aggressive outreach program to include the Veteran's Administration, health departments, labs, hospitals, physicians, nurses, and professional associations.

This concludes the formal presentation, and I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have about the NDPO.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Amy Sebring: Thank you, Rich, for the overview. Audience, your questions and/or comments are most welcome. Input your ? now.


Nick Sleptzoff: Is there a timeframe on the Exercise Handbook?

Rich Sanders: Nick, since it's a coordination project with our federal partners. We expect to be finished August - September timeframe this year.


Al Yelvington: Rich, is there a timeframe when the VPN version of the Common Communications Link will be available? Will the content be the same? The Coast Guard uses networked machines that don't have dial-up capability.

Rich Sanders: It is available now for users with users last name A-D.

Al Yelvington: The story of my life!

Rich Sanders: We are in the process of adding users --- should be completed by August. Content will be the same. Those using networked machines will be able to have access through their ISP.


Steve Charvat: What is the status of the NDPO based on the various (current) House and Senate efforts and proposed legislation proposing to either make a new Assistant Attorney General in DOJ to oversee the overall government efforts, or to have a new "czar" reporting directly the President and/or have FEMA run all domestic terrorism programs? It just seems to me that the status of the NDPO is not clear in light of all these proposed changes.

Rich Sanders: Steve, based on these recommended changes from various groups, and the Bills before Congress, we are working with those involved to ensure that the state and local voice is heard through the NDPO.


Steve Detwiler: In doing research for WMD I had some problems with finding who to talk to about certain things. In particular I wanted to find guidance on doing a terrorism vulnerability analysis for an EOC. I thought maybe the NDPO could help but they referred me to the Local and State Office and then they referred me to the FBI Counter-Terrorism Section. My question is, therefore, will all the different aspects be condensed into NDPO or will there be some areas you can't address?

Rich Sanders: NDPO is working on all aspects of preparedness. The operational aspect of WMD response we will not be involved with, in response to Steve Detwiler's question.


Jeanne Brummitt: I might have missed it, but how do you access CCL on the web?

Rich Sanders: To get set up for CCL, email <[email protected]> and request an application which will be sent by return email. Then when it is completed, it takes about 10-15 days to receive User ID and password to access.


Scott Filer: What impact will the currently proposed funding cuts for DOJ have on NDPO? What type of funding allocation has been considered for FY2002? Particularly as it relates to the partners in this program (i.e. DOE, DoD, etc.)?

Rich Sanders: Based on proposed funding cuts, FBI will receive an 8% increase specifically for counter-terrorism. We do not expect the NDPO future budget will be cut.

For the other partners, based on the Bush proposal their counter-terrorism efforts should remain the same or increase.


Patrick Harkness: You mentioned state and local "exercise" and "training" web sites; is this a federal requirement for those jurisdictions; and, does your Web site provide an updated list of where the WMD exercises and training events that are planned or have taken place?

Rich Sanders: The links that we have available are managed by the State Emergency Management agencies. There is no federal requirement. As the states update their lists, the information will become available.


Amy Sebring: Can you tell us a little more about your plans in the health and medical area?

Rich Sanders: One of our big plans is putting together a working group for the mental health concerns. We do have a clinical psychiatrist on board who is spearheading this effort. We have also just received a full time liaison, Capt. Veronica Stephens; she will be helping coordinate HHS/OEP efforts.


Steve Detwiler: How would you rate the overall effectiveness and abilities of local emergency services to respond to a WMD event nationwide?

Rich Sanders: The ultimate question, Steve! We are trying to establish a marketplace of ideas and standardize a lot of the training and exercising, planning. In the health/medical area the Department of Public Health in Illinois has a very strong program. A lot of their material is available through CCL. Our last two Beacons had articles specifically about their efforts.


Norm Mueller: What area of national WMD response needs the most help?

Rich Sanders: One of our missions is to gather all of the federal WMD preparedness programs. We are currently doing that but we do not have any strong analysis to reply to that question. But based on the reports that are being circulated, this is something that really needs to be established.

Final Question:

Ray Pena: Does anyone know --- is the On Scene Commander's Guide that Mr. Sanders mentioned available for download?

Amy Sebring: Rich says that he can email on request to <[email protected]>, and it is available via CCL.


Amy Sebring: Our time for Q&A is up. Rich, thank you for being with us today. You did a good job for us and we hope you enjoyed the experience as well. Please stand by while we take care of a few announcements.

First of all, the transcript of today's session will be posted later today. The reformatted versions will be available by Friday or Monday.

We are delighted to welcome and announce new Partners. We have two to introduce to you today. The first is Virginia ARES/RACES, Inc. The Point of Contact is Tony Amato, Section Emergency Coordinator, State RACES Officer. The other is the Institute of Civil Defence and Disaster Studies located in the United Kingdom. The POC is G. A. (Graham) Whitehead, Honorary Journal Editor. If you, your organization or affiliated group are not currently an EIIP Partner, please see criteria and Partnership form at <http://www.emforum.org/partners/criteria.htm>.

Also, we have two pledgers who completed 12 months during February. Drum roll, please ! Christopher Effgen, and Isabel McCurdy <//bell //bell>. Way to go guys! They are added to our Honor Roll at <http://www.emforum.org/eiip/pledge.htm#HONOR>.

Next week will be our annual Spring Break Student Day in the Virtual Classroom. This is a time we set aside to encourage our future emergency managers, as well as have a little fun. Please encourage any students you might know to join us then. We will also be interested in hearing about EM programs that utilize students as volunteers.

Thanks to all participants today. You may chat awhile longer if you like - no need to use question marks now. Please help us express our appreciation to Rich Sanders for today's fine session.