Local, state and national governments have spent the last 15 years focused on training first responders and others - including law enforcement, health care providers, social services and transportation services - to deal with an anticipated terrorist attack.
But the plans remain works in progress. To address that, the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission (SETRPC) has selected the Borders, Trade, and Immigration Institute to improve regional response for future terrorist attacks, providing both recommendations that will be tailored to the needs of Southeast Texas and templates and recommendations that can be used nationwide.
The collaboration is funded by the Department of Homeland Security, through its Program to Prepare Communities for Complex Coordinated Terrorist Attacks. BTI Institute, led by the University of Houston, was formed in 2015, funded by DHS as a Center of Excellence to address research and educational issues involving immigration, border protection and international trade and travel. Therefore, BTI Institute's mission fit within SETRPC's objectives for the grant.
The project is focused on Beaumont, where the regional planning commission includes Hardin, Jefferson and Orange Counties. But Kevin Clement, executive director of strategic partnerships for BTI Institute, said the findings will be applicable nationwide.
"While our focus is on development of a unified regional response plan for the Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange region, we will also develop plans, templates, exercises and training for first responders nationwide to improve preparedness and responsiveness," Clement said. "Our goal is to enhance community efforts to prepare for complex coordinated terrorist attacks throughout the country."
The project launched with a review of coordinated terrorist attacks from around the world, including the 2008 attack in Mumbai, India, and the 2015 Charlie Hedbo attack in France. The review will identify best practices in key areas, including intelligence, operational communications, tactical and medical response, and family and victim services and support.
A series of two-day workshops will begin in March and will feature public information officials who were involved in those events, allowing speakers and attendees to discuss best practices and recommendations drawn from the review.
Ultimately, Clement said, the researchers will compile a lengthy list - between 500 and 600 - of recommendations based on the research. The project will provide a detailed plan for the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission, as well as a series of templates that can be tailored to other regions.
"This would allow other communities attempting to enhance their preparedness to do so based on reviewing the action plan we produce," he said. "Through the action plan, we will have done the heavy lifting for them."