Better planning, training, coordination and management procedures are needed to protect emergency responders at the scene of terrorist attacks and disasters, according to a new study issued by the RAND Corporation and NIOSH.

Because terrorist attacks and major disasters often draw emergency responders from several departments in nearby communities — with different operating procedures, communications systems and response plans — coordinating efforts to protect workers is difficult, the report says.

The study recommends having all emergency responders to an event protected under the overall Incident Command System, the standard management structure used in disaster response and called for under the newly established National Incident Management System.

This would prevent different departments from wasting valuable time trying to come up with ways to protect workers on a case-by-case basis at each emergency scene.

The report, "Protecting Emergency Responders, Volume 3: Safety Management in Disaster and Terrorism Response," is available on the NIOSH Web page.

Other recommendations in the report:

  • Develop a cadre of highly trained disaster safety managers who can lead coordination between agencies.

  • Incorporate safety and health issues more realistically into joint disaster exercises and training, to make sure that safety management is more than just a training footnote.

  • Prepare in advance the types of expertise and other assets needed to protect responder safety. This would help ensure that safety-related reinforcements will be able to be used quickly and efficiently in an ongoing operation.

  • Develop common standards and guidelines for responder training, hazard assessment, responder credentialing and protective equipment to assure that responders have the knowledge and tools needed to accomplish their missions safely.