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Homeland Security
R. David Paulison addresses IFW conference

R. David Paulison serves as director of the Preparedness Division of the Emergency Preparedness & Response Directorate/FEMA, in thenewly created Department of Homeland Security in 2003. In that position, Paulison reports directly to Homeland Security deputy secretary James Loy who, in turn, reports to Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge. Paulison continues to serve as the administrator for the U.S. Fire Administration, a position to which he was appointed in December 2001.

As director of the Preparedness Division, Mr. Paulison administers a broad range of programs designed to reduce injuries and death due to disasters, strengthen states and communities and prevent or reduce damage to public and personal property. He is also responsible for enhancing state and local emergency preparedness, training federal, state, and local emergency managers, and conducting a nationwide program of exercises. As head of the U.S. Fire Administration, Mr. Paulison also supports state and local fire service programs and oversees programs to reduce life and economic losses due to fire and related emergencies in partnership with fire protection and emergency service communities.
Before joining FEMA, Mr. Paulison, who has 30 years of fire rescue services experience, was chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department. In that position, he oversaw 1,900 personnel with a $200 million operating budget and a $70 million capital budget. He also oversaw the county's emergency management office.

The following is the verbatim text of Paulison address to firefighters at the 19th annual Industrial Fire World Conference & Exposition held in Houston.

Thank you for inviting me David. I appreciate it. I appreciate the work you do and I hope you guys recognize what Dave does for all of you in the fire service, especially on the industrial side and the relationship with the federal government. David, I just appreciate it very much.
I'm honored to be here. I'm absolutely honored to be here because you're here. I was just talking to a reporter outside and she asked how important was it that people attend conferences like this. I said "Extremely important, because the most serious problem we could have is complacency. The fact that you're here shows that you care. It says that you really care about what is going on. I appreciate that. It does not go unrecognized. I bring regards from Secretary Ridge. He said to pass on his thanks for your attendance here and pledges his support in his work in developing better relationships, much, much better than we've had in the past between industry and the federal government, especially on the fire fighting side.

A couple of things I want to do ... I want to give you a brief update as to what the Department of Homeland Security ... I want to do an overview of what the fire administration is doing and some specific issues about industrial fire fighting and the Department of Homeland Security.
The Department of Homeland Security just celebrated its first year, its first anniversary. It has been a quite interesting time for all of us. We put 22 departments into one, some 220,000 merging together. We created some new departments. It has not gone super smooth, as you would expect in any big merger like that. I am firmly convinced, based on what I saw before and what I see now, that this country is much better prepared and much safer than it was a year ago. But we have a long way to go.

The president recognizes the issues we have with our first responders. In the '05 budget he has requested $3.6 billion to go to first responders, that is fire fighting and police primarily. Since the fiscal year '02 we have put more than $17 billion and that money has been going out the door until we gotten a better fire service.

One of the programs that I oversaw was the assistance to firefighters grant program. The president put that in place before Sept. 11 and was the first president to ever take federal dollars and put them at the local level for fire fighting. Once this support program is completed, which will be this year, we will have put $2 billion into the fire service directly from the federal government. The president has asked for $500 million for next year, so this program is ongoing. We are very proud of what it has achieved.

One thing that I'm very proud of that we've done is a national incident management system that we've put in place. I'm very proud of it because that's a system that you well know came right out of the fire service. It's a system that we've been using for 30 years. It started in Phoenix with fire command systems and then spread to our ICS system and now we've taken it to the federal government level and developed that into a national incident management system. That system forces the federal government, forces all federal agencies, all state agencies and all local governments to operate under one command system. I'm going to talk about interoperability in a little bit. But that is the biggest interoperable problem we've had -- not speaking the same language at some of these major incidents. And that will force us to do that. Part of the program is that if you don't adopt that system, you won't get federal grants. The president demanded that all federal agencies from the FBI to DHS and everybody else will use this system. The maintenance of that system is going to be housed at FEMA. We are developing that management system now. It is going to fall under preparedness and we will make sure that the development, the training, the publication and all those types of things are funded and will go on for years to come.
The Transportation Security Administration that was created under the Department of Homeland Security has done a lot to make all travel safer. I just wish they could make it faster. I sat for six hours at the Miami National Airport yesterday trying to get American Airlines to fix a smoke alarm in the bathroom. They wouldn't let the plane fly without that. When I finally got to D.C. and was able to repack and change clothes and fly here they couldn't get the door open to the airplane and we sat there at the gate for 45 minutes trying to get the door open. But we were safe.

We are now screening 100 percent of all bags. Every bag that goes on the aircraft is screened. There are literally thousands of air marshals flying on some of those flights. If you're flying out of D.C., I'm sure you will recognized that. All the cockpit doors are hardened. We do feel those aircraft are much, much safer than they were a year ago.
A new department that is going to benefit all of us is science and technology directive inside the Department of Homeland Security. They help all of us do some of the research we know needs to be done and we did not have the money to do that. For turnout gear, for new self-contained breathing apparatus, for new types of equipment. We just gave an $800,000 grant to North Carolina State University to develop the next generation of turnout gear for our firefighters. Our turnout gear is too hot, too bulky. It doesn't have the biological or chemical protection it needs to have for some of the stuff we know is out there. They have been tasked with developing a new line of turnout gear for all firefighters.
We've set some very aggressive goals for next year. One is interoperable communication. The need for interoperable communications is very obvious. We need to be able to talk to each other. We need radios that can talk to every radio. The fire and police need to be able to communicate. The local community needs to be able to communicate with you, because we're going to be sharing a lot of these resources.

The one thing we overlook is our equipment. I'm from Miami. I can take my diving regulator anywhere in the world and rent a scuba tank and it always fits. But I can't take an air bottle off of a Drager and put it on an MSA or a Scott or an Interspiro. That's not acceptable any more. I can rent an air compressor in Miami and drag it behind my truck all the way to Seattle and rent a jack hammer and it always fits. But the hydraulic tools that we use are not interchangeable from one brand to another. They work on different fluids and pressures. That's not acceptable. I can go to Home Depot and buy a stack of saw blades and they will fit any circular saw that I have, whereever I bought it. I could have bought it in China, Japan or here in the United States. The blades always fit.

The diving industry gets it. The construction industry gets it. The computer industry gets it. But the fire service, for the last 100 years, has absolutely refused to make our equipment interoperable. Part of it is our fault, the fault of firefighters. Like with hose threads. Back in Miami-Dade we had one compartment in every truck just full of adapters to fit the different hydrants we have in our own community. New York has its own threads. Kansas City has its own threads. San Francisco has its own threads. They are all different. That has got to stop. It has to start here with us in the fire service and then we can convince industry to bring it along. I've been meeting with the Fire Equipment Manufacturers Association. They have agreed that we have to do something. They are going to be working with us to make sure those changes that we know have to happen because as these incidents get bigger and bigger, as we saw with Hurricane Andrew and New York City and other places, our equipment has to be compatible from one to another. We're going to do some of those things.

We have to better protect our citizens. One of the things I learned from Hurricane Andrew is that no matter how big your department is there are going to be areas of the community that we simply can't get to when we have these major incidents. There were times back in 1992 when our fire trucks and rescue trucks were simply driving around passing out bandages to people and telling them "Go heal thyself." Because we went from 400 calls a day to 7,000 calls a day and we could not handle them all. So we are developing systems of emergency response teams where we take homeowner groups and train them to work together, teach them basic first aid and urban search and rescue, trained them in basic fire fighting skills. We teach them how to organize themselves, how to set up an incident command system, so when help is slow to get there they can take care of themselves, they can take care of their neighbors and take care of their neighborhoods until we get there. We've trained over 1,000 teams across the country already, almost 36,000 residents and 700,000 training hours have been put into this. But every community should have one. That's one of the things that you guys should do. If you wanted to do some PR work in your community where you are, you can sponsor one of these teams and develop it and we will provide the training and the resources for you and give you all the literature you need train these teams and develop a team in your community.

Intelligence issues are a problem. You probably know that more than anybody else that have been slow as the federal government to share information down to the local community and the people who need to know what is going on. When the Olympics were in Atlanta we had a couple of soccer venue in Miami. I got a call from the FBI. I also ran emergency management there. "Chief, we need to talk to you. We got some information that you may have a problem with one of your venues." "Well, which one is it." "I can't tell you that." "Okay, I've got three of them. What is it going to be? Are we talking about a bomb or chemical threat?" "I can't tell you that either." "Can you give me some idea of when?" "No sir, I can't share that with you either."

I said "Why did you call me?"

We are going to make sure that you get the information that you need to have. That's one of our big issues is to make sure you have the intelligence, the knowledge to deal with what is going on. What we know, you know.
As far as the fire administration is concerned, we are making some changes, as everyone else is. We are going to continue to focus on our training. One thing we've done is, for the first time in a long time we have fire people in charge of the fire administration. What a novel concept. I've got 32 years of fire service, the last ten was as chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Department. My deputy who runs the campus out there while I'm in Washington, Charlie Dickenson, has 37 years in the fire service, the last 12 as chief of Pittsburgh. We've got a lot of fire people who are in the command system there, to make sure that the courses we develop, the things we teach are relevant, on target and that they are fire based. I think that is a good improvement for us.

We're developing incident management teams around the country. One of the things we've learned about these major incidents when you're on them ... one of the big mistakes I made as fire chief in Dade County when Hurricane Andrew came through is I had my key staff with me and we worked 24 hours a day for about two weeks until this thing settled down. Well, after about the fifth or sixth day they started dropping like flies. I learned very quickly that you can't run those big systems for that long by yourself. So we're developing incident management teams around the country and the primary volunteers came out of the metropolitan fire chiefs conference. The first two teams are in Washington and Pennsylvania where this command staff is trained not to come in and take over your department but come in and help you and fill those chief positions as you relieve your people to go home and get some rest and come back the next day. Because I guarantee you after three or four days without sleep you're not making good decisions. Under the incident command system these teams can provide people who sit in those logistics slots, operations slots, people who are trained and certified to work in those areas. So we're going to continue to work on that.
Our incident command system -- as I told you we are adopting the national incident command system. We're changing all of our course work to put that in every course, at least a piece of it in there. Also, we want to do some training for municipal leaders so they have some understanding of what this incident command system is and know how it fits into their system.

In this country we still have way too many civilian deaths. We lost over 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, but we lose more than 4,000 people every year to fire in this country. There is no outcry. We recognize it and we're doing everything we can. Because most of the fire deaths in this country is our most vulnerable population -- those over 65 and those under five. We are doing several things. One is a national fire sprinkler initiative. We know smoke alarms have only gone so far. I know this doesn't really fit in the industrial fire world, but I think it's things you need to hear because we're all firefighters. Some of these people we're losing out there are your friends and your neighbors and sometimes your family. We know fire alarms have done a lot to reduce fire deaths but we're still losing 3,000-4,000 people a year. Sprinklers are the next step. Scotsdale, AZ, has had a fire sprinkler ordinance for 15 years and about half of those homes are sprinkled. In 15 years, they have never had a fire death in a sprinkled home. Not once. But they almost certainly lose one person a year in the unsprinkled homes, so we know they work.

We kicked off campaign to focus on caregivers and parents of children to teach them how to make their homes fire safe and teach them how help their kids survive fire. Again, they are one of our most vulnerable populations. Most of our fire deaths are little children. We are working with Disney, we're doing an interactive fire exhibit at Epcot that should open later this year. It's a fire prevention exhibit that is interactive. Millions of people go through that facility. They'll get some hands on fire prevention experience. We think that will have a big effect also.

We're developing a national credentialing system. You need to know who can come into your territory to help you and assist you when you have those fires. Hurricane Andrew overwhelmed our system, right, we had more than 2,000 people but it was much more than we could handle. We had thousands and thousands of people who said they were firefighters or paramedics come in and I don't have a clue if they were or not. Maybe they just put on a pair of rubber gloves and ran down the street and said "Yeah, I'm a paramedic." We got through that. But 10 years later in New York City, we had the same thing happen again. We had people crawling over that rubble pile in downtown New York that we don't have an idea who they were. That can't happen. You need to know who is coming in and what they're trained to do. That is what this credentialing system is going to do. It is not going to interfere with our current mutual aid system. In fact it is really going to assist to make our mutual aid system much more robust than we are now. We're committed to make that happen, where we have a system out there where we know what training a person has coming into your territory.

Obviously, training is the number one priority in the fire administration. I don't know if you are aware that the USFA not only has the National Fire Academy, but we also picked up the Emergency Management Institute that is still on the same campus. At the same time, when we merged into the Department of Homeland Security we picked up the Noble Training Center, which is a .... hospital in Anniston, AL, that teaches hospital administrators and emergency room doctors and EMS squad leaders how to handle mass casualties, whether it's an explosion or a chemical or biological. Last year we trained over 200,000 students in those three pieces -- the fire side, the emergency management side and the medical side. Seventeen thousand on campus and 185 long distance learning courses. So we're going to continue making our distance learning much more robust and much more available to everyone out there.

I know that some of you do attend, some of you firefighters attend, but the National Fire Academy is open to industrial firefighters. We can teach your officers how to better handle those incidencies. We don't teach you hand-held fire fighting. That's what you do. But we teach officers how to better manage, and we teach them how to work a program and how to handle one of these major incidents. Those courses are open to you. We highly encourage you to attend there.
Firefighter deaths. We continually lose over 100 firefighters a year. We've dumped $2 billion in the fire service, but in this last year we've lost 111 firefighters. That's more than any number of deaths since 1994 except for the World Trade Center incident. We have a memorial every year at Ennisburg. Some of you attend that because I recognize so many faces. Every year, the day before the memorial, Saturday night, at the basilica there on campus we have a candlelight service. This last year I had the unfortunate ... Unfortunately it put me were I could see those families' faces that just came out. You look at the faces of those children who lost parent, husbands and wives who lost spouses, parents who lost their kids. I turned to Charles Dickenson sitting next to me. "Charlie, I can't handle this. We've got to stop these firefighter deaths."

And we're going to start doing that. We're making a major technology effort for better gear and better training. But we're losing most of our firefighters to really stupid things. Traffic accidents. Heart attacks. In the last five years we've seen a major increase in deaths on training grounds. There shouldn't be any deaths on training grounds. That should be the safest environment in the world. But we've seen a major increase in that. So we're making big moves to do that.

I know you guys can help a lot with some of your training. I'm going to talk about some of the mutual aid stuff later. I need you to get involved in your local communities. I'll cover that in a second. Because industrial fire fighting and DHS is finally the federal government is starting to realize what a critical strength you are to the security of the country. The lose of multiple refineries can cripple this country because this country is so dependent on our refineries to operate efficiently and smoothly. You need to hear this. You're the safeguard to these facilities. What you also need to hear is the Department of Homeland Security clearly recognizes that and that is one of the reasons that I'm here.

The bad news is we have a long way to go. We have not had the greatest relationship in the world. We're going to change that, and I know you want that to change also. We've developed at the fire administration an emergency management, response and information analysis sharing center. It's about us getting information out to you. The center is aimed specifically at getting information to first responders. We do it through critical infrastructure weekly info-gram. You are able to get that. Also, we do an infrastructure protection bulletin that goes out on a periodic basis. We put out credible information on what is going on around you. Then we are also going to start distributing some very sensitive, critical information protection notices. It's unclassified -- we screen the classified part -- but we give you the information you need to have to prepare yourself for what may be out there. You can get that on line at www. disasterhelp. gov and sign up for those critical info-grams and get those directly to your department. Give us your department ID and we will get that information to you through the internet.

The information and analysis center -DHS has been very active. They are doing what are called building assessments at a lot of our chemical plans. They've already done quite a few and will continue to do that. There are plans over the next year to do over 4,000 assessments of chemical plants to make sure we now have an assessment of it that we can talk to these plants operators and tell them what we see is the threat out there.
We have an office of private sector liaison that works very closely with the private sector and they are going to be working more and more closely with you. They have the info-grams also. If you just give me your business card I'll make sure you get the information on how to get those infograms from those critical infrastructures.

Again, the good news is it is a top priority for administration department heads. The bad news is we've got a long way to go. But we're going to continue this relationship. You've got my commitment to that. Our routine response is a business sector liaison, he is committed to that. And David White has done a fabulous job getting us the information we need to make sure we can continue to work together to develop these relationships. But I also heard one of your speakers earlier talking about your relationship with your local fire departments. I would strongly urge you to continue working on those, continue to build those mutual aid paths. Because when things get big enough, when something happens in San Francisco and it's big enough, eventually Miami-Dade Engine One is going to roll over there. We know we have to share these things.

What you can do for us is you can take some of the knowledge and some of the skills you have and teach your local fire departments how to help provide mutual aid to you during some of those critical times that can happen down the road. Because you've got the skills, the ability, the equipment that most of our local fire departments don't have. You can share those things with them to help educate them. You can become your own advocate. I was discussing with some people last night how your local fire departments really, for the most part, don't have a clue as to what you have. They don't have a clue as to what type of equipment you have, the expertise you have, the staffing that you have and the people you have who have the experience in dealing with some of these major issues that they may not have at the local level. You need to start tooting your own horn. You need to let them know what you have and what is available through mutual aid. I would encourage you to work with associations such as the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Go speak at their conferences and share the information with them. Get the word out about what is available at some of your plants that can be used locally and around this country.

You need to get involved in your state and local firefighter association. The fire chief association also. I know I'm preaching to the choir to most of you. Let do more of that and start sharing this information back and forth and making sure that you know what resources are available to you on the outside. Then they know what you have in order for you to respond to them. I think that the mutual aid systems you have amongst yourselves is a model for private industry. It's a model for all of us to use and we applaud you for it. Don't stop building those bridges. Continue working on that. And continue working with the U.S. Fire Administration because I pledge my support to help you do whatever you need to make sure we share that information. Make sure we have those robust mutual aid plans in place and make sure we can work with each other to better protect this country.

In conclusion, Sept. 11 changed everything for all of us. It changed how we operate and how we think, changed how we look at threats. We know now that most of us can not continue just to focus on our one little plant. We can't continue to focus on our one town. We have to look at these things globally and nationally as we respond together. We've got to have better cooperation, better mutual aid support. It's not going to be easy. There is a lot of money and time involved. But we have to do it.

Any time we think of President Lincoln we think of the Gettysburg Address. But he didn't give that address before he had committed to going to war. He had to make a decision. It was not an easy one for him at that time. The easy thing for the President to have done at that time was simply 'Okay, if they want to succeed from the Union, let them go.' But Lincoln said in an address to the 101th First Cavalry -- "This country can not stand divided and this country is worth fighting for." Well, folks, I'm here to say that this country is still worth fighting for. It always will be. You're an integral part of Homeland Security and that why I appreciate so much your being here.

 
 

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