Yesterday the Office of Management and Budget announced that the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) had withdrawn their information collection request (ICR) supporting the on-line First Responders Community of Practice being developed to establish “a collaborative environment for the first responder community to share information, best practices, and lessons learned” (76 FR 11254).
I mentioned the publication of the 60-day notice of the intent to submit this ICR over a year ago. I have still not seen any information on this program (but I haven’t really looked for any either) beyond the two earlier Federal Register publications. It sounds like a worthwhile information sharing exercise, but in the current budget situation it is probably not being funded. That is a guess on my part as the OMB notice does not provide any reason for the withdrawal of this ICR.
I really hope that this ICR withdrawal is not due to a cancellation of this program. First responders are the people that we count on in any emergency to protect us from whatever danger is coming our way. Generally speaking, these folks are under trained and underfunded, and their professionalism is based, in large part, upon the experiences they have individual accumulated over the years.
Fortunately, terrorist attacks, particularly those using hazardous chemicals, are rare events. But that means that very few of our first responders have the requisite knowledge of, or experience in, responding to these events. Establishing a methodology for sharing that experience would be a valuable tool for increasing the ability of these brave men and women to appropriately respond when they are faced with these infrequent events.