Local first responders train to combat evolving terror attacks

Places like the Capitol have always been considered a prime target for a terrorist attack but not so much anymore. 

Austin's fire chief testified in Washington DC about what we need to prepare for this change.

From the Boston bombing, to the San Bernadino shooting, to the Paris massacre - these attacks show that the tactics deployed by terrorists have evolved.

"If we look back on 9-11, where it was a huge coordinated attack using airplanes on several critical sites. Nowadays, it's more lone-wolf and it's not a big media draw. It goes for injury and its use of explosives and fire, all different aspects that change the threat," says Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, Austin Fire Dept.                    

Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr testified on Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. In regards to preparedness, she says fire departments need to be informed.

"From some of our federal partners, state partners and even local law enforcement - that we know who some of these people are, that they're watching. We don't need to know all the details, we just need to know where the threat is," says Chief Kerr.

The Austin Police Department and Austin Fire Department share standard operating procedures, which they continue to practice in active-shooter exercises. This allows everyone to know what their role is.

Chief Kerr mentioned in her testimony the importance of funding and resources to be able to continue vital exercises and trainings.

"Rail cars that are carrying ethanol or crude oil that could be hazardous, that could be subject to a terrorist attack and very easily done so - we're training departments on how to respond to that type of incident," says Chief Kerr.

Also at the Senate Committee was the former commissioner of the Boston Police Department, hoping he could also shed some light on terrorist response.

"Progress has been made since we dealt with the Boston tragedy. We are seeing improvements in quality of intelligence, coordination of agencies, sharing of information, training and equipment," says former Commissioner Edward F. Davis III, Boston Police Dept.

Another key point is making sure first responders can communicate across agencies. To tackle that, U.S. Congress has approved the construction of a nationwide broadband network. For instance, issuing cell phones that would deliver immediate, real-time, sensitive information. So if an incident occurs, every first responder knows about it.

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