Outgoing DHS Secretary Tom Ridge told the National Governors Association, where he presented the 426-page document, "Completion of the [plan] has been one of my department's highest priorities."
The National Response Plan, which is expected to be phased in over a year, replaces an interim plan put into effect in late 2003. It aims to reduce the confusion and turf battles that marked the response to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The new overarching plan integrates and replaces some of the former patchwork of federal emergency response plans, according to the department.
Now, when an event deemed nationally significant occurs, the secretary of Homeland Security will have the authority to bring all relevant federal officials together to coordinate a response and to send a federal officer to the scene to coordinate the federal response.
The plan was crafted with the input of representatives of all levels of government and non-governmental organizations, including the American Red Cross, and does not change the authority of any entity, according to DHS.
In the event of a dirty bomb, for example, the FBI remains in charge of the investigation, the Environmental Protection Agency will be responsible decontamination, Health and Human Services will oversee public health, and so on, according to CNN.
Under the plan, primary responsibility to manage incidents will continue to lie with local responders, including fire, police, medical and public health authorities, with the federal government becoming involved only after emergencies exceed local or state abilities, the Associated Press reported.