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Thursday, March 4th, 2021

House Homeland Security Committee advances bill to aid first responder terrorism preparations

The Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series Act of 2017 was advanced by the House Homeland Security Committee this week in effort to coordinate preparations for terrorist attacks between first responders.

The bill targets first responders at all levels–federal, state and local–by authorizing the Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series (JCTAWS) to present, develop and summarize key findings related to terrorist attacks in various host cities. The initiative was introduced by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) and Dan Donovan (R-NY) and will be managed jointly by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Their goal: to help state and local jurisdictions ready themselves for terrorist events.

“I’m proud to co-lead this bipartisan bill, which trains federal, state and local officials to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks,” Murphy said. “Orlando hosted a Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop in 2014, and the lessons learned during this workshop were critical to the emergency response to the ISIS-inspired Pulse nightclub attack last year.”

Likewise, her colleague Donovan said that bills like this would help local authorities plan–the only way to assure decisiveness in the face of active terror situations. Under their initiative, police, fire, emergency medical services, public health officials and private sector/nongovernmental organization officials would all be trained. Since 2011, over 30 cities have already participated in these sort of workshops to develop plans, policies and procedures for the unthinkable.

“From Mumbai to Paris, we’ve seen the devastating impact of coordinated terrorist attacks on civilian targets,” Fitzpatrick 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.”