Emergency agency rushes to aid victims of attacks

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has dispatched eight urban search and rescue teams to New York to search for victims in the rubble left from two planes that crashed into the twin World Trade Center towers in an apparent attack by terrorists. Another four urban search and rescue FEMA teams are sifting through the remains of a plane crash into the Pentagon that sparked the evacuation of all federal buildings in the national capital area. The crash at the Pentagon caused a large fire and left a gaping hole in the building. FEMA has medical and mortuary teams specifically trained to work in disasters on standby in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. FEMA has fully activated its D.C.-based team, which is geared up for around-the-clock duty, according to spokesman Marc Wolfson, who said the agency has put its "federal response plan" into effect. That plan involves coordination with 28 other federal agencies and the American Red Cross. FEMA's regional offices in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Denton, Texas, and Bothell, Wash. are also on 24-hour duty. About 50 people are working in the National Interagency Emergency Operations room at FEMA, manning phones and communicating with state and local agencies. The fully-staffed facility includes employees from the Departments of Transportation and Agriculture, as well as the American Red Cross, providing support to field offices. In February, FEMA teamed up with five federal agencies to develop the Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan, which outlines how the federal government plans to respond to terrorism. It also provides guidance for federal, state and local agencies on preparing for and dealing with potential threats and incidents. The FBI and the Departments of Defense, Energy and Health and Human Services, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, are also involved in the plan. The Department of Health and Human Services is among the agencies coordinating with FEMA. The agency put on alert all of 80 disaster teams nationwide, dispatching nearly 7,000 volunteer doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other medical staff. It is the first time the agency has taken such action. The agency is also working with state and local agencies in New York to determine what resources they need from the federal government, Wolfson said. Wolfson stressed that FEMA is working in concert with the FBI's strategic center. FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh is in Montana, where he was attending a conference with state emergency managers. He is on his way back to Washington, according to FEMA spokespeople.

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