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Oklahoma City bombing
The Oklahoma bombing of April 19th 1995 brought the city down to its knees. The attack took place where no other terrorist had dared venture, the heartland of the city. With a truck parked parallel to the Alfred Murray Federal Building it exploded and brought down nearly the 9 floors of the north face and affecting a six block radius. 168 people perished and others in hundreds were injured. This bombing remains the loudest ever in the Oklahoma City, a revengeful attack against what the bombers considered unethical and certainly unjust.
Emergency response refers to putting into effect a plan that will counter a crisis before it actually occurs that can either man-made or natural. It also includes procedures to follow in the case where a crisis has occurred. It also involves learning from past experiences on how best to put the plan into action. It is during the first hours that response mechanisms are most likely to be stressed, proven faulty or actually fail (Emergency Response to Domestic Terrorism: How Bureaucracies Reacted to the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, Alethia Cook). The review on the disaster management of the Oklahoma City bombing had both positive and negative effects.
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Emergency response covers the moments the disaster strikes to when the operation comes to an end. That should be when all bodies have been retrieved from the initial attack site. In the case of the Oklahoma City bombing, the response was carried through to the following months up to when the remaining Federal building was demolished and the last two bodies retrieved (Haddow, 2008).
The positive and negative sides of the Oklahoma City emergency and response plans
In cases of emergency response, it bears effects that can either be positive or negative. In the Oklahoma City bombing there was a clear sign that they understood what had to be done but on the other hand it brought forth some instances where they had no idea on what to do. All in all, the success of the recovery shows that it had a higher hand in controlling the situation. Disasters are rarely anticipated and when this bombing attack occurred, it was a huge burden to the emergency response department and team of Oklahoma City. The emergency response to the scene included the fire department, the law enforcement, medical and emergency personnel. Within minutes of arrival the fire section established an Incident Command System where they were able to manage the search and rescue mission. The law enforcers on the other hand were able to handle the traffic and security. In order to meet the demands of the victims, the State Emergency Operational Centre was up and running. The then president signed an Emergency declaration which gave the government the responsibility of handling the disaster and reimbursement of response missions by local government and the state.
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The emergency medical service that was called to the scene was not prepared for the magnitude of disaster that had taken place but their quick thinking ensured that there was help to go round and save those whom they could. The effects of this bombing were both positive and negative to a given extent. It brought together many aspects of different agencies to working together to make it a success in their recovery procedures. There was an unquestionable positive response from the responders and also a great show of team work. In such instances such as the working together of the Recovery Service Centre, Oklahoma Restaurant Association who provided 24 hours food service to the emergency response workers, AT&T provided free telephone calls home for the US&R task force, the fire department with the Technical Logistic Centre, the National Weather Service was also timely in giving accurate information about the weather in overseeing the recovery process.
The operational personnel responded to the site within thirty minutes and became operational within the very first hour. This was a show of positive response to the disaster that hit Oklahoma City. During the first 18 hours after the incident the cellular phone circuits were overloaded and communication became difficult. This problem was however averted when the portable/ mobile cellular sites were erected near the sites. To those other non-emergency communications, traffic became tied up and the two-way radio proved to be the only option of communication. It was therefore when the Oklahoma Police Department channeled their communication one common channel that they were able to communicate with their personnel though it left them isolated as they could not communicate and monitor the activities of other responding law enforcement or response agencies (Hinman & Hammond, 1997).
The response team also showed flexibility in the terror incident. In that the emergency response and the success it had at the end of the rescue and recovery showed flexibility to a high degree. The recovery teams were on a twelve hour shift so that they would rest and meet the demands of the situation as it was with clear decision making.
The emergency response also showed a clear sign of having a disaster plan in place. It becomes hard to comprehend the kind of recovery that would have taken place if they did not have a disaster plan forehand. The scene was thronged with people who were volunteers and if they were not properly managed they would have been a chaos themselves. Also inclusive to the act of flexibility is what the law enforcers' portrayed. They divided themselves up to ensuring that security, traffic and assistance to the tragedy scene was effective. Security was also ensured within the radius around the bombing site to limit access to the area. Also in the hospitals where the people were taken had with them a plan to follow in which the very critically injured people were attended to first. The recovery response teams also created places where they were to receive people and get full information on those who were affected, the recovered persons, those who perished and still those whose bodies had not yet been identified (Erickson, 2006).
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With the Oklahoma City bombing came recommendations that there should be effective communication procedures when responding to catastrophic events of such kind of nature. There was also confusion due to the general lack of knowledge by individuals and agencies concerning response/ recovery planning and implementation. It thus brought forward confusion and frustration among responding agencies of all government departments. In this case it showed that majority of them had no idea on the Federal Emergency Plan and what procedure to follow when faced with such a disaster. It thus slowed down responsiveness as the support organizations had no back- track for coordination in consistence with the law. In this effect, were it not for the Oklahoma City bombing, there would have never been awareness that some of the personnel within the government agencies had no idea to what was pertained as disaster and also how to tackle such instances. It was therefore after the Oklahoma bombing that constant disaster planning, training and exercise was recommended. In the analysis of this bombing it showed that there were plans in handling the current crisis of the bombing, meeting the needs of post crisis victims, the rights and victims of the crisis had to be met incases of criminal justice and most of all, the recognition of long-term victim needs and meeting those needs.
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There was lack of coordination of the goods donated by the volunteers. Private cars, pick-ups and commercial truck-trailers had started lining up. Voluntary organizations after staring to sort out the goods found out that it would be an overwhelming activity and thus new drop off points were established rapidly and thus the crisis of inventory control. The lack of coordination of the donations added up as a major deficiency to the state and local planning effort. There were also problems such as increased influx of media representatives arriving at the scene. This however did not stand out as a major problem as the media was relocated and police updates were frequent. The law enforcers however allowed the entry of credential personnel to the site. This particularly shows that the emergency response team had a plan to keep the nation updated on what was going on and at the same time control the media from roaming in on the attack site.
The emergency response also has to deal with the victims families. The case of Oklahoma City bombing showed that they had an idea of how to handle the families. Sites were set up where the families were to report about their loved ones. The identification of a common place where to handle such victims, 'the family assistance centre 'was established at a local church. They were co-ordinations in filling in the families whether the victim had been recovered as yet. In other instances names and other identifications was note down and procedures followed on how to go about the recovery and identification procedures. By the end of the first day there was a nine member intervention team working with teams and individuals that were responding to the disaster.
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Lessons learnt from the Oklahoma City bombing
There were other benefits that came from the Oklahoma bombing of 1995 such as the importance of having an emergency response plan at hand. It also became important to frequently test the communication systems and the backups. For instance, during the bombing incident in Oklahoma City, the City Hospital emergency rooms lost its radio contact with the ambulance service. There existed back up radio systems but not in all emergency rooms. It was then after this incident that all radio back ups in the hospitals were re-evaluated and if necessary replaced or upgraded.
Another lesson learnt was the need to have phone companies involved in the disaster-preparedness planning. As it was in the case in the Oklahoma bombing there was jamming of the cellular networks in the first hour of the explosion. It was recorded that almost twelve million calls were attempted and approximately. 1,800 emergency "911" calls were attempted within the first hour but were met with a busy signal. Afterwards a local company donated resources to this rescue and 1500 phone lines were up and running.
Another lesson is that the medical community should be ready to handle any amount or magnitude of casualties. As depicted in the case of the Oklahoma bombing, with the least time possible there were seven staffed ambulances and within an hour later there were 66 more staffed ambulances and operational. In conclusion there were two physicians for every one of the 202 patients that was rushed to the nearest hospital of the blast (Boyd, 1997).
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There should be better and well coordinated relationship with other disaster-response agencies in order to lessen the confusion in any disaster. There should be a maintained database of all the individuals and agencies that can be of help in such disaster incidences. With the jamming of communication networks, pleas for medical personnel and other needs were directed to the media instead of well known agencies who would have known their place and work in such a situation. This therefore led to confusion, wasted resources and poor distribution of medical personnel. Ever since the Oklahoma City bombing there has been an amended clinical and non-clinical community volunteers' plan. The plan indicates that in the case of a disaster they should report to their respective hospitals awaiting further instructions.
It is also very important to have the technical know how on sharing of patient information among the hospitals. This would have come in handy to those family members who had to travel to the 18 hospitals in search of their loved ones. Due to the volume of the patients seen and the conditions of many a lot of information records were incomplete. Disaster response agencies still needed the information after the disaster had taken place. If there had been in existence a linkage through which basic information would have been shared, it would have cut down on precious amount of time and also duplication of effort.
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It is very important to educate the public that they can also be of help in cases of disasters. The Oklahoma City Hospital received numerous requests from other health care workers and therefore a disaster relief fund was created in order to help the victims of the bombing. The funds were effectively used during the first year to helping people pay up mounting bills and to even converting homes so that they could be accessed by the handicapped. The funds were also used to train hospital workers in stress management. The relief funds also helped the uninsured and those that were underinsured and anyone requesting for this help was considered for assistance. Victims of the injured and those who perished from the bombing attack together with rescue workers were also funded for counseling. This was all well accomplished with the help of a centralized database which kept track of all needs, victims and assistance received.
It was later discovered that it takes a lot of resources and time to heal emotionally from such cases of disasters. The Project Heartland came into existence shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing to cater for the mental health care and needs of the bombing victims. The victim population should not only involve those who are casualties of the disaster but it should be broadened to also include the responders, rescue workers, assistance personnel and even those who are exposed to the traumatized victims. It may take years for them to heal but the day of this Oklahoma City bombing will never be forgotten.
On the long term recovery the city received a presidential declaration which became the onset of recovery and relief programs for victims and families together with the entire nation. It becomes clear that the effects of such acts of terrorism should not be limited to injuries and property damage but also includes psychological and emotional impact and the delivery of the appropriate medical health services. It should also be realized who is to provide this kind of assistance, the funding, the duration and those who qualify for this kind of services (Murphy, 2000).
The case of Oklahoma bombing was handled to the very best of their then present capabilities. Not everything went according to the book but the main concept of saving lives has upheld. There were lessons learnt and many recommendations were put into place. The very fact that a disaster management plan should be in place is very crucial. It does not only mean the presence of it but making sure that people are well versed with what steps to take in such instances. Communication is also a very crucial part in implementing an emergency plan. There should be detailed steps on whom to contact and how best to follow those implementations to the book. This will avert cases of confusion as was the case in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. The public should also be trained on how to go about disaster cases. To those who wish to be of help should follow the standards that have been implemented or see the person who is heading a given department. The media too should be upfront in relaying the coverage of the happenings on the ground and they too should try and be of help in the crisis. Continuous coverage should be discouraged in order to give the people peace, and especially those who are in hospital, a sense of privacy (Cook, 2009).
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The main purpose of looking into the effects of the bombing on the emergency recovery is to identify the disaster and its effects, the actions taken, lessons learnt and the operational strengths. It could be said that it is through this incident that the future similar incidents such as the 9/11 attack response procedures are based on. There are more personnel and well equipped to cater to such emergencies. There are better trained enforcers to recognize the existence in hierarchy, an order in which they have to follow when faced by such kinds of disasters. There exists a need by which there is integrated training of the federals and local emergency management. The federal response plan should also needs modification so as to allow the incorporation of response activities and missions by the Federal Law Enforcement Agencies.