A local school district loses its federal funding money over teacher behavior. A group of D.C. residents sue to block a homeless shelter in their neighborhood. And a Republican activist in Montgomery County successfully petitions to get term limits on the ballot—but a legal challenge looms.
The investigation into yesterday’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard continues, with many questions remaining. The FBI is taking lead on the investigation after a massive initial response that included law enforcement from a variety of local and federal agencies. We hear from an emergency management expert on the challenges of coordinating that response. And we get an update from WAMU’s Elliott Francis on how the local community is coming together to heal hearts in the wake of tragedy.
- Todd Jasper Federal emergency management consultant; Associate Director, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Vision, MSA Inc.; Vice Chair of Emerging Technology Caucus, International Association of Emergency Managers
- Elliott Francis WAMU Anchor and Reporter
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, Food Wednesday, Mollie Katzen. Her latest cookbook is called "The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian recipes for a new generation." But first, yesterday tragedy came to our town. A former Navy Reservist and current defense contractor opened fire at Washington's historic Navy Yard on the bank of the Anacostia River turning a routine business-as-usual September Monday into a day full of law enforcement and emergency medical activity and anxiety.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd for a dozen families, the ultimate heartache as they learned of lost loved ones. We'll be talking later with WAMU 88.5 reporter Elliott Francis about a memorial service today. But first responders from an alphabet soup of local and federal agencies responded in full force. Here to explain how agencies coordinate and make split-second decisions when responding to an active shooter emergency is Todd Jasper. He joins us by phone.
MR. KOJO NNAMDITodd Jasper is an associate director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Vision at MSA, a consulting firm here in Washington. He's also vice-chair of the Emerging Technology Caucus for the International Association of Emergency Managers and the education director for the Metropolitan Washington Association of Contingency Planners. Todd Jasper, thank you for joining us.
MR. TODD JASPERPleasure to be here.
NNAMDITodd, yesterday workers at the Navy Yard and several nearby buildings were told to shelter in place, which may have been counter to some instincts to flee. How was a decision like that, which seemed so crucially important, made in a very short space of time?
JASPERGreat question. You can imagine it's extraordinarily complex because you have multiple things happening at the same time. And what I suspect, if I understand correctly, certain folks in certain buildings were instructed to shelter in place. Or sometimes we might be familiar with the term lockdown. And then others were definitely told by law enforcement on bullhorns or as SWAT teams entered the buildings to come out if you can. And that actually constitutes a sea change in emergency management in outreach to folks about active shooters since Columbine.
JASPERSo we no longer really -- the guidance from DHS, Department of Homeland Security, is if you can get out you ought to immediately if you sense there's an active shooter in your midst. And I think that's what people did yesterday. You saw a lot of folks streaming out very quickly. And then other folks who were deemed in kind of a safer area -- at a certain point Navy Yard became one of the safest areas to be in D.C. with so many law enforcement there -- but so you had other folks being told to stay where they were so that they weren't in a crossfire or out in the open if they didn't have to be.
NNAMDIAre military installations in some ways uniquely prepared to handle a situation like this?
JASPERThey're unique in many ways. It's a great question too. Sure. they have their own police force, as you can imagine. They have strict boundaries where it's clear, you know, how they're separated from the rest of the city. They have many checkpoints. They're very secure in many ways that most private companies or corporations couldn't mimic without great costs of time and productivity.
NNAMDIWhen we see so many agencies converge on the scene of an event like we did yesterday, Metropolitan Police Department, military police, FBI, NCIS, park service police, how do they coordinate with another?
JASPERIt's extraordinarily complex and it really gets to -- it becomes more than just normal fire calls or normal police calls at that point. It becomes a whole organizational structure. And in the federal government, especially since 9/11, we have what's called the National Incident Management System or NIMS and Incident Command System or ICS. And agencies across the country, it's a requirement that they teach their officers and their firefighters and response teams this whole organizational structure so that you can have really complex ad hoc organization under extremely stressful circumstances so that they can come together seamlessly and have terrific results, which I think we saw yesterday.
JASPERWe saw police officers running into the gunfire immediately. I mean, there's no hesitation and they all worked with one another very, very well. And so it's absolutely obvious. You know, you saw the officer being airlifted off the roof by the park police. That was also an MPD officer who was injured. And you had FBI SWAT team respond very quickly. So you had a lot of the agencies working together very, very quickly with good results.
NNAMDIWell, we remember after 9/11 here in Washington there was a lot of complaint about not enough interagency coordination. That problem seems to have been solved, Todd.
JASPERIt's a good question. It's a good point. We've worked very hard at it. this whole industry, this whole field has put a lot of resources into it. It's not perfect as a process. It's a continuum. We're always working on trying to get better at it. But there's a lot of training and exercises the departments go through. D.C. is kind of unique too because we have so many agencies all at once that respond to incidents like this, between secret service, FBI. And then you have local police. I mean, in D.C. even the public library has its own police department and everyone responds together on a routine basis to that's really important.
NNAMDITodd Jasper is an associate director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Vision at MSA, a consulting firm here in Washington. He joins us by phone. Todd, there has been some surprise that a secure base could be the site of such a violent tragedy. Do you think that the security measures in place on the installation will ultimately end up being a boon for investigators?
JASPERIt's going to be very difficult because unless we're searching every single person, every single car, every single article that enters any facility -- and I don't want to speculate based on their procedures at Navy Yard. As far as I understand it was very secure. But we always make -- it's a balancing act. And it's constantly being reviewed. I know that base security -- installation security is constantly going through threat assessment and hazard assessment and vulnerability assessment to make sure that all your bases are covered.
JASPERAnd I think obviously every time there's an attack, every time there's an incident we review those assessments. But it's very difficult because every time we let our guard down a little bit or we relax some procedures because it takes too long or spends -- costs too much money, we have an attack eventually and we have to reevaluate. But I don't have any information to suggest that Navy Yard wasn't as secure as it could have been. I have every confidence that it was. It was very secure there.
NNAMDIIn today's newspaper we saw SWAT officers on cell phones as they walked up to the Navy Yard. What kind of tech tools are deployed in a situation like the one we saw yesterday?
JASPERWell, it's -- it goes across the spectrum. I don't know exactly what -- if they had certain apps or if they had maps on their phones that they were able to pull up. Sometimes -- you have to understand, police officers, just like you and I, we all have Smartphones now. It's possible to get messages or pictures or text messages. You can imagine during an incident like this, you have so much radio traffic and so many people calling out orders that a lot of times you can't get on the radio yourself to ask for a question or give information. You might have to wait quite a bit.
JASPERBut if you could send a text message to a colleague in the command bus, you might have a quicker response. And so all means of communication are being used now in a modern incident.
NNAMDIAs we continue to learn more about what exactly happened yesterday, Todd, and as investigators try to piece together a motive, what will you be keeping your eyes and ears open for?
JASPEROne of the things I focus on the most is understanding as institutions how we can better prepare our people to respond to an incident of this magnitude or to prepare for an incident of the magnitude. To make sure that we give our folks the absolute best information in the most easily understood way. We want to avoid confusion at all costs because we want to save lives when seconds matter. So that's -- in the emergency management field that's what we spend a lot of our time doing is going through these after-action reviews is what we call them, and looking at how we could better prepare our own institutions to make sure that they -- everyone has the information they need to act accordingly.
NNAMDIAnd thank you for doing it. Todd Jasper, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDITodd Japser's associate director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Vision at MSA, a consulting firm here in Washington. In addition to many questions that remain after the shootings yesterday, there is also much grief. WAMU 88.5's Elliott Francis just attended a memorial service for the victim. Elliott joins us but you should be forewarned that his cell phone connection doesn't seem to be that strong. We're hoping it will hold. Elliott, thank you for joining us. Tell us about what just took place.
MR. ELLIOTT FRANCISMy pleasure, Kojo. This was a memorial service held down here on downtown Rhode Island Avenue at St. Matthews Cathedral. It was put together rather hastily, as you might imagine, but again there was no option considering yesterday's event. So I think that might have accounted for the lower-than-expected turnout. There was probably about 300 people in the sacrosanct. But many who attended I think were quite moved, quite moved by Cardinal Wuerl's statement and his statement of faith and his reassurance.
MR. ELLIOTT FRANCISAt one point he told the gathered that we're all good. There's good in all of us reassuring many of the people there that in fact in spite of the events of yesterday and the events that will likely continue to happen, despite our best efforts that there's good in all of us and we should have faith in that.
NNAMDIThere are a couple of explanations that could be possible for the attendance at that service. One, that a lot of people are still in shock. Two, a lot of people aren't sure exactly -- we just got the names finally of all of the victims. A lot of people weren't quite sure about who all of the victims are or were. But we know that the scene in and around the Navy Yard and at a few other sites around town, including the Senate and the White House, was tense. What would you -- how would you characterize the mood at the service this morning and what generally speaking have you noticed, Elliott, about the mood around town?
FRANCISWell, the mood, I think, tended to be the same. I've asked a number of people, as we do on occasions like this, about their level of safety. And I think to a man and woman most people in this town -- and at the service as well -- feel safe overall. There's a level of happenstance here that I think people know that they just -- we just can't afford.
FRANCISBut knowing what Washington D.C. means not only to the country but to the global community in general, and how certainly since 9/11 the level of security here has been as high as you can find anywhere, I think people understand that unfortunately a security analyst that told us one determined person with a weapon can sometimes get through their best efforts. So all that said, the mood was rather a sadness and sadness, I believe, around the town, quiet sadness but determination certainly to move on past this situation.
NNAMDIAnd I'm really glad you raised the issue, Elliott, of happenstance here because as these incidents seem to occur within increasing frequency, one gets the impression that as you characterize it a level of happenstance, there might be an increasing degree of resignation on the parts of people to the almost inevitability of these kinds of events continuing to happen. Did you pick up a little bit of that as you moved around town today?
FRANCISWell, no, not at all. I think there's still a determination. Everybody I talked to today -- at least at the memorial service today, had two notes for me. A. they were quite pleased that the message of reassurance and faith that was passed along by Cardinal Wuerl. But also too they said was a determination to find a solution, whether it be societal solution or political solution, they believe that, yes, faith should help carry the day -- carry most of the day.
FRANCISBut at the end of the day, so to speak, we are also a nation of laws and a civilized nation. And there should be a way around this that people -- so a lot of people can come together, find a way out of it and move forward. So I think there's a determination to at least find a solution and not just let life happen to us.
NNAMDIElliott Francis is a reporter and an announcer with WAMU 88.5 News. Elliott, thank you so much for joining us.
FRANCISMy pleasure, Kojo.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, Molly Katzen. Her latest cookbook is called "The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes For a New Generation." I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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