House preparedness panel focuses on chemical agents

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) | Courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) held her first meeting last week as chairwoman of the House Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications Subcommittee.

During the hearing, she heard testimony from representatives of local municipalities nationwide and from the Department of Homeland Security regarding threats to the U.S., with specific attention paid to chemical agents.

Among the witnesses were Mark Kirk, director of the Department of Homeland Security's Chemical Defense Program, and Dr. Christina Catlett, associate director of the Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Oklahoma City Fire Department Chief Keith Bryant spoke about the risks that hazardous chemicals pose.

"While hazardous chemicals are vital to the American economy and quality of life, we must recognize that extremists can take advantage of weaknesses in the nation’s transportation system or at chemical facilities to obtain toxic chemicals for nefarious purposes,” Bryant said.

Witnesses also discussed how chemical facilities in the U.S. could be potential terrorist targets, as they can cause a large amount of damage, considering the volatile chemicals they store.

"We find ourselves at a pivotal time in our fight against terrorists around the world. ISIS is better-resourced, more brutal and more organized than any terrorist group to date,” McSally said.“We must ensure we work to prevent any attacks on U.S. soil, but we must also be prepared should one occur.”



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