EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation – March 5, 2003

The Terrorism Timeline, 1988-2001
Major Events and Outcomes for U.S. Emergency Management Policy

Claire B. Rubin
Principal Investigator and President, Claire B. Rubin & Associates

Amy Sebring

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available upon request to [email protected]

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Our topic today is "The Terrorism Timeline: Major Events and Outcomes for U.S. Emergency Management Policy," and is based on a new report that is about to be published as Working Paper #107 on the Natural Hazards Center Web site.

A preview version is available now at http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/wp/wp107/wp107.html but some additional editing is required before the final version is posted in the near future.

I am pleased to welcome back our speaker, Claire Rubin. Some of you may recall that Claire did a session for us on the Disaster Timeline back in September 1999 that is in our archive at http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/990901.htm.

Who in September 1999 had any idea of what we would be facing two years later? We are just now learning about some of the policy outcomes, such as the Presidential Directive to the Secretary of Homeland Security issued just this past Friday.

Claire has 24 years of experience as a researcher, practitioner, and academic in the field of emergency management with an unique mix of experience as a researcher, consultant, and educator in emergency management. She is President of Claire B. Rubin & Associates, a woman-owned small business specializing in disaster research and consulting, and a Senior Research Scientist at the George Washington University, Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management.

In addition, she is Director of Emergency Management Policy at the MNG Center of SRA, located in Arlington, VA. Welcome back Claire, and thank you for joining us today.


Claire Rubin: Thanks, Amy. I would first like to mention my collaborators on this project, William R. Cumming, Irmak Renda-Tanali, and Thomas A. Birkland. The team used as a starting point the two historic disaster time line charts:

(1) The Disaster Time Line (DTL): Selected Milestone Events and Their U.S. Outcomes (1965-2001), which includes major natural and industrial/ technological disasters and their outcomes; and

(2) The Terrorism Time Line (TTL): Selected Milestone Events and their U.S. Outcomes (1988-2001), which covers only major terrorist events. Both are available in PDF format from http://www.disaster-timeline.com

The project team focused on major terrorist events in the past two decades, using the TTL as a visual outline and reviewed and documented these events, as well as the essential emergency management (EM) infrastructure, including laws, regulations, practices, expert systems, and organizational changes that have evolved. This systematic examination of major terrorist events and their outcomes, although limited in scope and duration, does provide an explanatory factual foundation that can serve as the basis for policy analyses of the major events and their outcomes for the past two decades. We chose to focus recent terrorist events, examining events from 1988-2001 in order to:

(1) Systematically identify and analyze major defining events and document them in a narrative chronology;

(2) Identify and describe the major outcomes from each defining event, and

(3) Describe the causal relationships between the events and their major outcomes, to the extent that the information collected allows.

This project discovered the need to more closely analyze the mutuality of relationships in the homeland security and emergency management arenas.

As an aside, there is great interest among practitioners in federal agencies in Washington and elsewhere in the time line charts. The Terrorism Time Line has been reprinted three times and almost 5,000 copies have been distributed in the past year.

Although this analysis covers only events and outcomes that occurred through the year 2001, in the background of this report are the profoundly influential outcomes and general unease resulting from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Concern with national security and homeland security has extended to the nation as a whole and to many other countries. Concerns are being raised about the shape of future policies to reduce our nation's vulnerability to terrorism.

The aftermath of the September 11th events provided a sense of urgency and currency to this analysis and also may have indirectly affected the research. There now exist both unprecedented awareness and deep concern nationally about emergency management capacity and capabilities at each level of government.

The definitions and criteria for the selection of defining and focusing events need to be sharpened and refined. In this regard, the TTL served as a graphical table of contents initially. Upon closer examination of events and their outcomes identified in the TTL, however, some events in fact were not defining events, and it will be necessary to eliminate them from future revisions of the TTL

Among the questions and issues for further research are the value, duration, and importance of the outcomes of key defining events. More study is needed to determine several issues:

- If the documented outcomes simply result in corrective actions to deal with specific problems or needs revealed after that disaster;

- If some outcomes in fact contributed to improvements in the effectiveness and efficiency; or, more importantly,

- What are the capacity and capabilities of emergency management to deal with future major disasters?

The need exists for more in-depth analyses of outcomes from major disaster events of all types in order to determine how lasting and significant they were, that is to what extent major changes (legislative, regulatory, organizational, or programmatic) were merely near-term fixes for problems or were far-reaching changes that led to more efficient and or effective emergency management capabilities?

It would appear that the September 11th attacks led to a significant number of legislative and regulatory actions and were the major contributor to the very comprehensive and ambitious outcome of creating the Department of Homeland Security in November 2002. The September 11th attacks cannot be considered in a vacuum, however. Other efforts, undertaken in the wake of attacks or without any obvious trigger, provided the groundwork for the ultimate creation of the new department. For example, the Hart-Rudman Commission III Report recommended that the federal government should create a National Homeland Security Agency.

In his recent textbook, William Waugh states that the U.S. emergency management system has largely developed in response to specific major disasters. According to Waugh, "For the most part, policies and programs have been instituted and implemented in the aftermath of a disaster, based almost solely on that disaster experience, and with little investment in capacity building to deal with the next disaster." Waugh's book was published in 2000, and since then a great deal of attention, effort, and money have gone into refashioning emergency management for the imminent threats of terrorism in the United States. There is now is more urgency to the needed task of examining and testing the statement above about the lack of long-term outcomes and investment in capacity building.

The research team has observed that typically policy is reactive. The Disaster Time Line and to a lesser extent the Terrorism Time Line graphically display the reactive nature of emergency management showing graphically that major events are the drivers of changes in legislation, policy, regulation, and organizations dealing with emergency management.

What remains to be examined closely, especially for the years 2001 and forward, is the extent to which outcomes build capacity. It may be that, since the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, the quantity and quality of outcomes are very different and perhaps more significant than at any previous time. Capacity in many realms of emergency management may have increased owing to the high profile of those incidents and the national attention being paid to various public safety and emergency management services, functions, and organizations.

For example, virtually every state has added a homeland security office or set of functions to their emergency management agency, and new resources have been allocated to these areas. Even if capacity is not, in fact, greater currently, commitment to the issue/need may have increased since September of 2001. It also is important to understand that while many states have made homeland security an important part of their emergency management agencies' missions, the extent to which this mission is displacing the natural and technological disaster function is an important question.

Related to this question is the degree to which experience in natural hazards has been leveraged – or ignored - in the new reality of homeland security. For example, FEMA's role in the Department of Homeland security may shift away from natural disasters and more toward security.

Since this research project was conceived and carried out during 2002, for the most part it was not possible to include outcomes from the September 11, 2001 events and the Anthrax Incidents (2001) that happened in 2002 in this report. Preliminary research indicates that a large number of highly significant outcomes from those attacks occurred during 2002. They include: at least 10 pieces of national legislation, two Executive Orders. one Homeland Security Decision Directive, one new federal department -- the Department. of Homeland Security -- and several significant reports. Both the September 11th attacks and the series of anthrax incidents that occurred in 2001 led to major outcomes in 2002. Moreover, it would not be surprising if outcomes and ramifications occurred for a few more years.

Finally, we have just received some additional funding that will allow us to revise and update the Terrorism Time Line to include outcomes in 2002. Watch the project Web site for details http://www.disaster-timeline.com.

We would very much like to have feedback from readers regarding the new report. Now I will turn it back to Amy for your questions and comments.

[Audience Questions & Answers]


Rick Tobin: Claire, isn't there a lot of "empire building" going on in the guise of really changing the readiness environment? Are we really trying to change the way we do business or are we just shuffling chairs after 911?

Claire Rubin: From all indications, since 9/11 we have some fundamental changes going on.


William Cumming: Line-drawing (meaning demarcation of roles) before DHS theoretically was simpler. Namely law enforce vis a vis disaster relief and disaster relief vis a vis defense. But now the line-drawing is over civil security. A number of sub-units in DHS are classic law enforcement! For example, the Coast Guard has just been designated an "Intelligence agency"! Does anyone think natural hazard response and recovery has been strengthened?


Amy Sebring: Claire, my concern is that the emphasis has been on the "First Responder" community, with Emergency Management still in the background. Do you see a relationship with how the media treats "the story" and outcomes?

Claire Rubin: Many major changes are underway for emergency management, in the new homeland security environment. I am not quite sure what you are getting at. There are lots of folks in the media, and the NY times and the Washington Post do shed light on issues.


Ted Wolf: Coming from a Fire Response, Emergency Medical Services, and Search and Rescue world we see the changes to the Office of Emergency Management as being problematic in that they presume the availability of our resources without planning on how to build them. I hope this does not get lost in the Law Enforcement zeal of recent events.

Claire Rubin: I sympathize on the resources matter. The number of "unfunded mandates" seems to be growing.


Avagene Moore: I have a comment and a question. I heard a few emergency managers at the International Association of Emergency Managers MidYear Meeting last week in DC say they are changing the name of their local agency to the County Homeland Security Agency / Department – thinking that Emergency Management is not going to be funded or fit in the current environment. My question: In terms of capacity building, do you feel that it takes more and more catastrophic or disaster events to measure our success? Or is there another way to determine this?

Claire Rubin: The topic of what is happening to the EM people and functions in the Homeland Security Environment is an important one. The issues around measuring capacity and capabilities are one the General Accounting Office has been pressing the administration on very hard. There is a new GAO report out that notes there are 10 federal strategies related to terrorism currently!


Eelco Dykstra: The idea of a disaster timeline, the graphical display thereof and an analysis of impact is of great help, particularly for those who insist that emergency management is all about the ad-hoc reinvention of the wheel...When USAID spends 38 million following the Nairobi 1998 US Embassy bombing and is till spending 10 million in the Gaza and Westbank to build local emergrency management capacity, do you include this as LOCAL impact, as "lessons learned for the US Federal government, or both?

Claire Rubin: Local impacts seem to lead to attempts to build capacity in EM at all levels; I wish we learned from each event, but sometimes we just note the lesson and continue as we were!


William Cumming: As the richest and most democratic nation on earth many eyes are watching how we work out these emergency management and homeland security issues.

Claire Rubin: I agree with him and find it rather scary that we are in the fishbowl.


Floyd Doss: Do you see "Information Sharing" with all First Responders instead of just Law Enforcement becoming a priority?

Claire Rubin: Yes, and I would broaden the need for information to many more participants in the process.


Christopher Effgen: I think the timelines are very nice. There are obviously a number of other issues that people would like to discuss, me included.

Claire Rubin: We would like to know how many of you have seen and used them and particularly what you do with them so we can make them better. We would like to hear back on the timelines.

Amy Sebring: Yes, we have had some significant policy proclamations lately as I mentioned and we can open it up to that if you like.


Ed Pearce CBCP: Information sharing to those of us in corporate disaster recovery is critical yet we are seldom on any list. Do you see this changing? The work is happening at the local level but we need national support.

Claire Rubin: I m not sure what you mean by on the list. I think each of us has to work at getting connected. The interface between the public and private sector is a complex one; much of the critical infrastructure is in private hands.


Christopher Effgen: I would like to order the timelines are there three or just the two that I could download?

Claire Rubin: Check out our Web site: http://www.disaster-timeline.com. There are two timelines at this point.


Floyd Doss: Do you believe that, with the threat of terrorism so prevalent, First Responders will be receiving antidotes for nerve and blister agents so they can be administered in the field as soon as the event happens?

Claire Rubin: Sorry, I am out of my league on that one.


Lloyd Bokman: Claire, the Timeline is great and illustrates, as you said, the reactive nature of our business. Question is, in your research did you find any evidence of major proactive initiatives being taken?

Claire Rubin: Not really, I am sorry to say.


Paula Gordon: My homeland security Web site at www.gwu.edu/~rpsol/homeland includes a new article on references and resources that tries to bring those in the private sector up to date on what is going on in homeland security, including emergency management. There is also a listing of basic references and resources on the Web site. Claire's Web sites are among the most informative.

Claire Rubin: I would like to add my other site: http://www.disaster-central.com, which is my own effort to contribute to knowledge.


Amy Sebring: I am interested in the driving forces for change. In your research, do you make any attempt to distinguish the forces that are internal to government vs. external? For example, to what extent do they come via Congress in reaction to public pressures vs. from a current Administration?

Claire Rubin: We have used major disaster events as the focusing events to show how the laws, regulations, plans, and organizational changes are pressured. Remember that a chart can only hint at basic causes and effects. That is why this new report tries to provide a narrative explanation.


Ray Pena: Why is the Milwaukee cryptosporidium event on the list? You may have already covered this - I came in late.

Claire Rubin: We put that event on because I was told it led to changes at EPA and in the State to protect against malicious tries at the water supply, but in fact it does not appear to be a major event and we will remove it from future charts.


Paula Gordon: The work that was done on Y2K included such a focus. See http://www.gwu.edu/~y2k/keypeople/gordon. Chapter 5 of the White Paper there deals with several different scenarios involving different mixes of public and private sector involvement. These scenarios are as relevant today as they were with Y2K since cascading infrastructure failures are of considerable concern.


Elden Laffoon: So, if I'm reading all this correctly, are you saying that the EM structure as we've come to know it will be/is being completely overhauled to be more in tune with the current missions?

Claire Rubin: Our work deals with history-- the Terrorism Time Line and the report both end essentially at the close of 2001. We are providing the factual information about what has occurred , and made some efforts to interpret, but we make no claims for the future!


William Cumming: Government programs and organizations are political responses to events!

Claire Rubin: Well stated.


Eelco Dykstra: I saw the timelines at the Boulder workshop in 2002. Would very much like to show them as a modeling technique in presentations in various countries to varying audiences. Is that possible? If so, would need to have it imported into PowerPoint. Is an international version planned?

Claire Rubin: Please chat with me off line and we can discuss this.


Amy Sebring: Claire, does your previous work on the Disaster Time line lead you to expect any particular patterns in the future? I realize we are in the midst of an historical moment.

Claire Rubin: The DTL does show how the patchwork quilt of requirements larded on in the late 1990's was likely to be problematic for terrorist response in the future. If you look at the many PDDs and Executive orders and laws (Nunn Lugar) that were piled on in the 1990's, onto the existing Federal Response Plans and National Contingency Plan, it looked like trouble was ahead to deal with terrorism response.

William Cumming: For twenty years various persons, many informed, tried to explain the current setup for terrorism. The timeline was intended to be a largely factual memory prompt. Now that it exists, crude as it may be, informed people are starting to formulate different conclusions about the facts.


Isabel McCurdy: Is history repeating itself? Before Emergency Management, it was the cold war ideology. Then a shift happened to civic focus. Now it seems to be shifting back to a military ideology. Comment welcomed.

Claire Rubin: I think the current environment is different from anything seen before.


Avagene Moore: Claire, as a researcher and an EM instructor, do you see us continuing to be a reactive business re: disasters and terrorism? Do you have a vision and suggestions for making us more proactive?

Claire Rubin: I think State and local officials have to do more thinking and then speaking about needs and ideas. More than just keep asking for money. They need to contribute to regulations, legislation, and guidance documents. They need to make the requirements more realistic, practical, and workable.


Paula Gordon: Indeed, that is why we need to have the most comprehensive emergency management resources in place: anything can happen at any time with any kind of weapon or tactic. That is the nature of the post 9/11 world.


Amy Sebring: That's all we have time for today. Thank you very much, Claire, and good luck in the future as you continue your project. Please stand by a moment while we make some quick announcements.

If you are not currently on our mailing list and would like to get program announcements, please see the Subscribe link on our home page. Also, we would like to welcome some new EIIP partners!

Ashley County (AR) Office of Emergency Management http://www.geocities.com/jfore55007

Bernstein Communications, Inc. http://www.bernsteincom.com

Colorado Springs (CO) Office of Emergency Management http://www.springsgov.com

Widener University of Law http://www.terrorism-emergency-law.com

First Services/First Bank Business Continuity http://www.firstbanks.com/

We are delighted to have them participating with us. If your agency would like to become an EIIP partner, please see the Partnership link on our home page.

Thanks to everyone for participating today. Our session is adjourned but before you go, please help me show our appreciation to Claire and the rest of her team with us today!