T3 Webinar Question and Answer Transcript

A Community Responds: A Multi-Agency Emergency Response to the Fort Hood Army Base Shooting (August 3, 2010)

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Q. The trauma centers: were they inside the base or were they outside?
A.

Jim Reed: They were outside the base, and that's a very good question. The level one trauma center is 38 miles from Fort Hood, and we had-- fortunately if you were taking the casualties, those that weren't time critical went by ambulance, ground ambulance. They were able, because they were in the opposite flow direction of all the traffic trying to get to Fort Hood, they were able to get through on the transportation network. Air ambulance network worked fine. There was no problem with that, but we are pretty geographically spread, and so the level one trauma center and the VA center that they ultimately took some of the victims to were about 38 miles away.

Q. And this follow-up question, I assume that maybe you'll get to this later, would be, I guess, mutual aid agreements and so on that are already in place or were in place at the time.
A.

Jim Reed: Absolutely. We're going to talk about regional mutual aid here in a few minutes.

Q. Did the post and other agencies have any agreements in place prior to the incident?
A.

Jim Reed: Absolutely, and we'll talk a little bit about that in the next section, but I'll give you a little bit of a preview, and that is that all of the 33 cities and seven counties in our region are in a unified mutual aid agreement. Fort Hood was a signatory to that agreement, and that kind of cleared the waves, and that was not a simple thing to do. It took two legislative sessions and a lot of lawmaking in Texas to indemnify first responding communities against charges and against insurance claims when they were in mutual aid. And I understand that other states have not been able to get through that, so I'm pretty proud that Texas was able to. But in our case I will tell you that everybody flowed, everybody enacted under mutual aid. There was no delay. I was very happy for that.

Q. I heard that former President Bush also visited the site. Was it during the event?
A.

Jim Reed: My understanding, and I cannot speak a hundred percent factually on that, but I think I would have known. I do not think that former President Bush was onsite during the incident. I do think that he visited the post, post incident. You have to understand if you can remember that map of my region just to the north, just off of that picture, is Crawford Texas that that's where the President's home is. And so we have to interact with security agencies when he is in there, but since he is not the sitting President it's not as much of a security concern as it has been in the past, but I do not believe he was on post during the incident.


Session II Questions

Q. In the explanation of FATPOT you stated that the history of incidents at a location could be tracked. Does the FATPOT system tie into your CAD?
A.

Jim Reed: It has the capability of tying to CAD. Let me be very clear. We are in the discussion phases with FATPOT about what the system might do for us. They have a deployed system right now that I'm not very familiar with, and I would encourage whoever asked that question to Google them, or find them and talk to them. But my understanding is that they do have a system that talks directly to CAD, and it can pull that information. I will also tell you that-- how many of you know what a Voice-Over-IP phone system is? In the room, just for the record, about two-third of the people do, very popular you know. You get your phone service from your cable company. I would just put this out here, and I wasn't even going to mention it, but it's very important that you check with your cable provider and ask them whose 9-1-1 address they are giving if you dial because the phone company no longer knows where you are. They only know where the master line is. So if you contract for your phone through a cable company in some instances if you dial 9-1-1 the address they get is where the cable company is not where you are. So it's something that's very important for you to check on; upside downside technology kind of thing.

Q. Where was the next location or where was the next medical, offsite medical? How far away? I'm just not familiar with Texas geography.
A.

Jim Reed: The Texas geography, that's a great question. Immediately the Regional Medical Operations Center, the RMOC, we love our acronyms. The Regional Medical Operations Center was tracking trauma beds. Metroplex Hospital is actually closer to Fort Hood than Scott and White. The Scott and White is a level-one trauma center so they had greater capabilities. I think their plan, and I'm not as well versed as I might/should be, was when they stabilized patients and got them off the trauma ward they then could then move those patients out of the trauma ward into nearby hospitals and there are two within-- one within a mile and one probably within about seven miles. So I think that they probably had a plan to do that surge response. In the event that it had been a mass, I mean, define mass, I mean, 13 people lost their lives. That's pretty mass, but had there been hundreds involved we did have the VA Medical Center nearby that could have been utilized. And at that point I'm sure that as the Multi-Agency Coordination Center Commander I would have been called up and we would have been coordinating with the state to go about an hour south and an hour north to either Waco or to Austin.

Q. Were the victims evacuated to multiple trauma centers — and where were these located in relation to the shooting scene? Were these inside or outside the post?
A.

Jim Reed: They initially took them all to Darnall Medical Center which actually was about 500 yards from the incident, but not knowing the magnitude of the incident, and I'm not shooting at the military at all, but if you've ever lived in a military community they're in a constant state of flux. You have deployments of medical units that are going to Afghanistan, and then you have people that are coming back, and then they're stood down for 30 to 60 days and then retooled, and people get reassigned. I'm not familiar enough with Darnall status at that time, but they might have been limited in their trauma care at that time, and that was very complicating. The way that we're set up in Texas if it has to do with multi-agency resourcing and it strips the county's ability I'm the go to guy, and I report to those seven county judges, and we sit in a room together, and we make the decision. Who gets the ambulance? Who gets the pumper truck? Who gets the ladder truck, and who gets the hazmat team. When you throw this military installation in that's why it was so unique for us because there are all sorts of federal versus local laws, I'll misquote this but Posse Comitatus and who has authority. And their system didn't match our system. And so a lot of egos had to be checked at the door to make this work. And so that should have probably been a lesson learned. But it has, if anything, allowed us a much closer look into the gate at Fort Hood than we've ever been allowed before, and I think as a result the response will be stronger should we ever have another incident.

Q. What are the lessons learned, and how are those being shared, and this information being disseminated?
A.

Jim Reed: This is not unique to my location and geography. There are military installations all over the United States. And the answer to that is that first of all there was an independent after action review done by I believe the former Secretary of the Navy and a former Assistant Secretary of the Army that is being distributed to all military installations with lessons learned. What is difficult is the Council of Government structure is not uniform throughout the United States, so we've offered our lessons learned within Texas and also to the National Association of Regional Councils. But each community is so different that some of our lessons learned aren't going to be the same value that others might be.

Q. I'll preamble this question by coming back to one of the fundamental objectives of the TSAG case studies workshop series, which is to review technologies for public safety, on its logo tag line. One of the subscripts in the TSAG mission is addressing institutional issues and institutional frameworks that allow for the technologies to be deployed—or to even work for that matter—and a common threads in your presentation is institutional, if not breakdowns, just that institutional structures are not compatible or not conducive to what needs to happen in quick-time, real time emergency response—institutional, protocol, or public policy issues, if you will. All of this to ask my question: in the lessons learned area I didn't see references to institutional issues, but these are major to this particular event and we've seen them as significant in other TSAG workshops. Not to put you on the spot, but would you, perhaps post-event, begin developing through your Council of Governments, or the national associations an addressing of institutional issues and public policy issues that affect emergency response?
A.

Jim Reed: Certainly it'll be something that I know we have some of our public safety committees working on. It's really kind of unique, and I tried to keep this focused on issues and not be a Central Texas Council of Government's propaganda piece, but I have the great pleasure of working for 27 elected officials, and 99 times out of 100 they agree on everything and a regional focus, and I'm extremely blessed to live in that region that works that way. When Homeland Security funding first came down our elected officials said, "Before the dollars flow we're going to pool all our money to do regional things." That spirit, that institutional spirit to say, "I'm going to give up something in order to promote the greater good," really set a framework for how our region responds that is a little bit unique, but it certainly serves as a model. I will tell you that for sixty-four-hundred and fifty square miles larger than six U.S. states it would have been very easy for every fire department to say, "Give me a toy. I want a Hazmat team, or I want a bomb squad," and instead all our first responders sat down in a room and said, "How can we help each other?" And as a result we have three hazmat teams for the entire region and that's it, and they have a response zone, and they respond more times beyond their borders than they do for their own border. But because of that we're able to fund three very comprehensive well-trained hazmat teams rather than spreading that resource, that very limited resource very thinly and having a small response. So I think institutionally we're probably in, again, not to sound arrogant, I think we're in better shape than a lot of communities because they're used to that regional focus. If there's a way to institutionalize that and to use that I think communities could benefit and they would get a lot more money out of their-- a lot more bang for their buck out of the money they do have for technology. The problem is getting everybody to play in a sandbox without throwing sand at each other. And so, yes, I take that as a challenge, certainly Manny.

Q. Did you have any problem with self-deployment of emergency responders?
A.

Jim Reed: I wasn't close enough to know firsthand all those details. I will tell you that if anything having the military post involved helped us on that incident. God bless everybody who's a volunteer first responder, but donation management and management of the scene can become unruly very quickly, and I thought that-- in Texas I don't know if it's like other parts of the country. Once you get outside of that urbanized area it is largely volunteer fire departments and volunteer emergency responders. And I think our county emergency management coordinators did a very good job of saying, "We already have what we need at the post. What we need you to do is to stay where you are so that if we have anything else happen you can be the guys to go fix it." And so the quick answer, although I've already talked about it longer than I probably should have, is I don't think we had a problem with self-deployment, but I do think that it was largely because the military post restricted that. And so certainly I know that in all of our emergency management plans in the State we're required to have donation management, personnel management and access ways of controlling those types of issues. So we didn't have as much of a problem maybe as we might have. But it was still a challenge. I mean people were showing up at blood donation sites for days, and that's a good problem to have but those people have to go home sometime and get some rest. And so it was a bit of a challenge, but all in all I think we were probably more lucky than good, but it all worked out.

Q. Terrific presentation, very thorough, interesting, thanks.
A.

Jim Reed: Thank you.

Q. This is a two-part question. There was lots of discussion of communications and interoperability challenges between civilian and military, but was the communication among civilian agencies entirely well coordinated and interoperable?
A.

Jim Reed: Absolutely, and it gives me great pleasure to say that. Number one, Fort Hood sits largely next to Bell County and many years ago, I would say more than ten years ago, the Council of Governments in Bell County and all the entities within Bell County consolidated their communication and 9-1-1 system into a single system. We had five public safety answering points up to that moment and we went to one, and all of the law enforcement, and fire, and EMS, and all the elected officials all got together in a room and said, "Let's buy one radio system. Let's have one 9-1-1 center for the whole county." As a result because Fort Hood sits right next to that county that was already seamless because it was all 800 megahertz. Then the fact that we had put these translator units into place allowed our VHF partners that were coming in from the outlying areas to be able to communicate enough to get to the command post which we established just off post. So interoperable communications was probably one of the largest successes we had partially because of the Fort Hood consolidation, but partially because of the Homeland Security investment.

Q. Second part to that question. Do you all have comprehensive integration interoperability across law enforcement and public safety throughout the entire region with the exception of the military?
A.

Jim Reed: Absolutely. We have a mandated — this is kind of interesting, and as much as I don't want it t be a Council of Government's commercial I also don't want it to be a Texas commercial, but I will tell you that in the days following 9/11 the Governor of The State of Texas pulled together the 24 regional councils and we met at Camp Bullis which was a secure location in Austin Texas. And he said, "You're going to be my point people and we're going to focus on fixing the problems that have traditionally plagued first responders, and that's communication, our interoperable communication systems, hazardous materials teams and then training and response." And he took a very large hit. I mean, imagine that. Every fire department, every police association, every union, every trauma center wanted to be the point person. The emergency management coordinators are a huge group. In Texas that's 254 people, and that's just county, and then when you put the first emergency management coordinators from the cities their organization is over fourteen hundred, but he took a regional approach from day one, and as a result we started making investments as regions on interoperable communication systems with a deadline that the governor said, "You will meet, and you will spend all your Homeland Security money on meeting that goal until that goal is met. And then once you can certify that you've met that level or interoperability then you can go out and buy other things, other nice to have things," and as a result that paid off and it paid off in spades. Each region is required to have an interoperable plan. Each region is required to have interoperable protocols, and each region is required to train and demonstrate that to the state operations center before they can become certified.

Q. Has your group to Texas DOT been able to secure ITS funds to address the after action ITS items since the incident?
A.

Jim Reed: The Fort Hood incident brought kind of a razors point on the need for ITS. I would love to say that TEX DOT just jumped up and said, "This is the number one priority." We have a real transportation crisis in Texas. Currently we only have enough funding from our legislature and federal dollars to maintain our system and no money for additional capacity. About the time all this happened you're in the middle of a down economic situation in the nation as well. We had an ITS deployment plan, a very basic one, in this area and I think it got accelerated a little bit, but I don't think any new large sums of money have flowed into the system in response to the need. Our legislature only meets every two years and they are facing huge budget deficits next session. It's been projected as high as $18 billion dollars, and Texas has a balanced budget requirement which means that they cannot leave Austin until they have a balanced budget. They cannot deficit spend. And so there's going to be a real crunch on any type of new technology application. So I wish I could say that the money's flowing like water in response to the need, but it's just not happening right now. We deployed just one system and it's really not even fully functional right now.

Q. Have you seen more and/or better interaction communications from the post after the incident?
A.

Jim Reed: Absolutely. It's kind of interesting. There's a number of personalities during a crisis situation, and this is my opinion. I'm not quoting out of a psychology book here, but in my opinion there are those people that pull in more and then those people who the light bulb goes off and says, "Oh, I need to reach out more," and we've experienced both. But I will tell you, and I served at Fort Hood for a number of years prior to this job, the people who are reaching out and the light bulb has gone off outnumber the people who have pulled in at least two to one. We had an incident where we tried to get these findings acted on for 9-1-1 and we had an individual on Fort Hood who said, "No. You are not pulling that data cable across post to make enhanced 9-1-1 work." And so a few phone calls and few emails later that person's boss came to see us and said, "Describe the situation to me," and it's being fixed. So I would say that we have a much higher visibility with the Fort Hood community than we've ever had.

Q. Was the Texas DOT called in to assist with the traffic issues on the highway leading to the post?
A.

Jim Reed: The Texas Department of Public Safety was and they are not-- in Texas they're not a part of the DOT. They're a separate entity, and they were called in to help with some of the problems that we were experiencing. The DOT I'm not familiar with whether or not they actually deployed any type of traffic control devices or any variable message signs to try and help divert. This happened so quickly, it started about one o'clock in the afternoon, that by the time the post was locked down and the backups started occurring, in order to get something deployed and in place seven hours later, you know, the incident only lasted five minutes and the post lockdown was over in seven hours, so. I wish I could speak more intelligently about what DOT's specific role was, but I can tell you that as the Director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is another hat that I wear, I'm not aware that DOT did any massive type of deployment to help with the traffic problems out there. But in all fairness to them they would have been very limited in what they could have done anyway. Yes?

Q. In retrospect should you have gone to DOT for a variable message sign, a portable one?
A.

Jim Reed: The question and I know that — see I'm slow but I do learn. The question to be repeated was certainly, and I think that under the lessons learned from an MPO point of view that is something we've not explored. We've moved onto other things and that's unfortunate, but I take that as kind of a challenge because if you ask me today how I would do that I know where I would start, but I'm not sure I'd be starting at the right place. Our DOT, because of the size of the state, those variable message signs, the portable ones I believe are kept in Waco which is about an hour and ten minutes from post. So I'm not sure who I would have to talk to at the district to get authority to deploy those, and that's certainly something that maybe I need to be thinking more about. But I think in hindsight that could have been something had we been able to get them there. If nothing else we could have had a plan to stage those further back from the incident to say, "Five miles down the road is massive congestion. Use alternates." One technology we did have that we did not use, it's low tech but it would have worked, it could have helped, is we do have a data feed on a local AM station for traffic advisories. And we could have probably deployed variable message signing to say, "Tune into AM1480 for latest in traffic," and we could have been giving updates to say, "Avoid US190 between W S Young and West Fort Hood for the next 24 hours," or "And alternates might be X, Y or Z." And that's something I didn't really even think about until your question, so I thank you for the question because it's making my brain spin in a different direction, so.

Q. Using Satellite radio, and I won't name brands, but I don't know if the Fort Hood area is covered by one of those reporting stations, but if so that might be an opportunity as well?
A.

Jim Reed: We are not, but that's certainly something that could have been done. An interesting side-light is we had used some 9-1-1 funding to purchase some digital imagery of the area that although not used in the initial incident has been used significantly in the after action planning. And so that satellite and digital imagery has been very helpful, but we don't have the reporting capability like a major metro would like a Dallas or a Denver or someone that's a large metropolitan area.

Q. Do you utilize DOT in a response-assistance to events on highway systems on a regular basis?
A.

Jim Reed: Yes. I should say DOTs are used, but because of the tiered response sometimes if there's a major incident on a highway DPS, The Department of Public Safety will request that directly from the state and they'll bypass the region. It's kind of viewed that although tiered response works great if you know what the end game is it's easier to just bypass and go get the end product. If DPS wanted DOT and they had to go through me they would have to call me and then my office would have to call right back to the state to ask for what they already knew they needed. So DOT is normally deployed by the State Operations Center and not a Regional Operations Center. And in this specific incident we were not, The Regional Multi-Agency Coordination System wasn't called up because it was contained so quickly. And so they might have been coordinating directly with the state for the DOT assets and I would be unaware of that.

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