New bill would increase response effectiveness in face of bioattack

H.R. 4580, the Metropolitan Medical Response System Act, has been introduced by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) along with Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), which would ensure the proper integration and coordination of local emergency management plans int he event of a biological attack, nuclear bomb or natural disaster.

“In order to maximize the effectiveness of our response to a significant natural disaster or terrorist attack, we have to coordinate the actions of our federal, state, and local first responders,” Rep. Sanchez told GateHouse News Service.

The act would fund the Metropolitan Medical Response System, which is the only federal program integrating local emergency management, law enforcement and health medical systems into a coordinated response to a mass casualty event.

“Local law enforcement and health professionals are often the first to arrive at the scene of a mass casualty event, and they must have the essential resources to meet this challenge,” Rep. Moran told GateHouse News Service. “Funding through the MMRS program will ensure localities have the necessary equipment, personnel, and training to respond effectively to any natural or manmade disaster.”

The MMRS program - founded following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 - is able to mobilize multiple agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations and private enterprises, across jurisdictions.

“First responders and medical personnel are our first line of defense in the event of the unthinkable,” Markey told GateHouse News Service. “We need to ensure that we provide them the resources needed to save lives in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or disease outbreak. Moreover, we must improve our emergency coordination and planning before disaster strikes, so that our police officers, fire fighters, medical personnel and other responders can act in an efficient, organized manner when every minute counts. The MMRS will help us do just that."