With IEDs, the proliferation of new chemical and biological threats, and other dangers increasing in both scope and frequency, today's SWAT team needs some built-in EMS capabilities - best provided, of course, by specially trained emergency medical services technicians.
An attack on U.S. cities could topple skyscrapers, destroy seaports, and block highways, tunnels, and bridges. Those are all local effects. An attack on the nation's food supply could sicken the entire nation, so coordinating a response and recovery operation require a different approach.
The still ongoing professionalization of the EMS field has been a gradual but hugely successful undertaking that has resulted not only in the saving of many, many lives but also has made those lives richer, less painful, and longer-lasting.
People, weather disasters, terrorist attacks, and other criminal activities are inherently unpredictable. Which does not mean that law-enforcement and healthcare agencies cannot prepare for them by using the "special events" calendar as a training curriculum.
Numerous mass-casualty incidents have demonstrated the value of building and staffing a number of medical centers dealing primarily with trauma and burn patients. But even those centers may not be able to care for all victims of a "mega-disaster" such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Thanks to EMAC, ESF-8, and other mutual-assistance policies and programs, individual states no longer have to go it alone when facing a hurricane, an earthquake, a terrorist attack, and/or other disasters, natural or manmade.
Most terrorist attacks against the United States have been large-scale incidents. But the demonstrated willingness of individual martyr-terrorists to serve as suicide bombers has changed the equation and requires much greater attention than it has been given so far.
The children and grandchildren of the Greatest Generation that won World War II are worthy successors, serving their nation as firefighters, policemen, EMS technicians, and hazmat specialists. Many of them also demonstrate, with their own lives, the last full measure of devotion.
First-person report: How Kentucky coped with "frozen Hell" earlier this year by making full use of not only its own responder capabilities but also those available through CDC's Career Epidemiology Field Officer program.
It sounds like a mission impossible, but U.S. public health officials are determined to find a way to provide pandemic medications, within 48 hours, to everyone within a major metropolitan area endangered by pandemic influenza or a potentially lethal bioterrorism attack.