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Report:US Not Prepared for Nuke Attack 12/19 06:13

   The federal government isn't fully prepared to handle a nuclear terrorist 
attack or large-scale natural catastrophe, lacking effective coordination, and 
in some cases is years away from ensuring adequate emergency shelter and 
medical treatment, congressional investigators have found.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The federal government isn't fully prepared to handle a 
nuclear terrorist attack or large-scale natural catastrophe, lacking effective 
coordination, and in some cases is years away from ensuring adequate emergency 
shelter and medical treatment, congressional investigators have found.

   The report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, obtained by 
The Associated Press before its release, found that the Federal Emergency 
Management Agency didn't always keep track of disaster efforts by agencies, 
hampering the nation's preparedness even after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. That 
storm hit a large swath of the eastern U.S., including New Jersey, New York and 
Pennsylvania, which received federal disaster money.

   "FEMA is not aware of the full range of information," according to the 
report. The investigation relied in part on internal documents from the 
Homeland Security Department, which oversees FEMA, including previously 
undisclosed details from a 2013 disaster plan that highlights needed 
improvements in the event of an attack from an improvised nuclear device.

   The GAO said it would still take one to five years to develop a strategy to 
determine whether people were exposed to unsafe levels of radiation and five to 
10 years to plan for a full medical response. Guidance also was lacking as to 
communication among first responders and making shelters and other basic needs 
available.

   Investigators said FEMA, which leads an interagency group in creating a 
disaster response plan, needs to set clear deadlines and estimated costs to 
ensure that agencies fulfill the goals.

   It is one of several reports that the office plans in the coming months on 
the level of disaster readiness.

   "This report makes clear that there are some areas of our country's 
preparedness that need strengthening up," said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who 
co-chairs the Senate Caucus on Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism.

   As to natural catastrophes, the report said FEMA should take a bigger 
responsibility in leading a coordinated response, setting clear minimum 
standards for agencies and collecting regular status reports. It said the 
Energy Department did not effectively coordinate with state agencies and the 
private sector during Superstorm Sandy, which was blamed for at least 182 
deaths and $65 billion in damage.

   It also cited a lack of coordination among federal agencies in deciding 
whether to send law enforcement personnel to the affected region.

   Jim Crumpacker of Homeland Security said the agency would work to put into 
place GAO recommendations by June but noted it did not have legal authority to 
compel other agencies to take action.

   "FEMA will continue to coordinate and collaborate with other federal 
departments and agencies," Crumpacker wrote in a response included in the GAO 
report.

   According to the report, 39 of 102 corrective actions identified by federal 
agencies after Superstorm Sandy still need to be done. Among them:

   --- Improving emergency coordination with states.

   --- Boosting training in the use of electronic medical records and other 
care.

   --- Ensuring adequate transportation of injured victims.


(KA)


 
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