ithin minutes of the blast, a massive search-and-rescue effort commenced that included fire, emergency, medical, and law enforcement personnel, as well as a large number of citizens. Citizens and emergency personnel joined together and entered the bombed structure, forming human chains to locate and remove trapped survivors and victims. In fact, throughout this rescue effort, the large outpouring of citizens and agency volunteers astonished veteran rescue workers.
The strong State and Federal Government presence in Oklahoma City helped the response-and-rescue effort. For example, immediately following the explosion, the Oklahoma City Fire Department set up an Incident Command System (ICS) to manage the intensive search-and-rescue mission and massive influx of federal, state, local, and voluntary agency resources (Oklahoma Department of Civil Emergency Management, 1996). Also, working together, the local police department, the county sheriff, and state and federal agencies handled traffic and security. By 9:25 a.m., 23 minutes after the blast, the State Emergency Operations Center was operational and included representatives from the state departments of public safety, human services, military, health, and education. Soon joining these agencies were the National Weather Service, the Civil Air Patrol, and the American Red Cross (ARC).
Within an hour and a half of the bombing, President Clinton announced the signing of Emergency Declaration FEMA-3113-EM-OK under title V provisions of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act [PL 93-288]. This signing and declaration of emergency gave the Federal Government primary responsibility to respond to the disaster and authorized full reimbursement for all eligible response missions performed by state and local government.
President Clinton's declaration that Oklahoma City was a federal disaster area automatically triggered ARC to act as the lead agency in providing food, shelter, first aid, relief supplies, and welfare information. Approximately 665 rescue team members were sent immediately by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Oklahoma City.
The swift response in Oklahoma City of public and private agencies at all levels of government demonstrated how critical it is for those agencies to work collaboratively in responding to the crisis created by a mass-casualty incident. This type of planning and coordination is just as critical to identifying and meeting the needs of victims.
Victim Support Services
The needs of victims and family members immediately following the bombing were acute and urgent. Some of the support services that were mobilized to assist victims came in the form of the Compassion Center (later becoming Project Heartland), the Resource Coordination Committee (Unmet Needs Committee), and crisis intervention.
The Compassion Center (the Center), a family assistance center, was operational by 3:30 p.m. on the afternoon of the bombing. The Center, initially set up by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the Oklahoma Funeral Directors Association, provided approximately 20 funeral directors to greet families and gather predeath and antemortem information (American Psychological Association, July 1997). By the next day, April 20, the American Red Cross was operating the Center serving victims and families. The Center also was supported by the hundreds of local clergy, police and military chaplains, and mental health professionals from across the Nation. Other agencies sharing support responsibilities for the Center included the county sheriff's office, the Oklahoma National Guard, the Salvation Army, Tinker Air Force Base, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Center was located in the First Christian Church in downtown Oklahoma City because of its proximity to the bombing site, the size and floor plan of the building, and adequate parking for...