Crisis Management

Immediately following the bombing, Oklahoma City Fire Chief Gary Marrs implemented the Incident Command System (ICS). The Oklahoma City bombing was a proving ground for use of the ICS in a major event and ICS is now the mandatory structure in any incident being worked under the Federal Response Plan. The federal response is now known as the National Incident Management System.


James Lee Witt, Former Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), tells how federal, state, and local government agencies came together during the aftermath of the bombing. Witt arrived in Oklahoma City that evening.


Frank and Cathy Keating, former Oklahoma Governor and First Lady, discuss the leadership and cooperation of Oklahoma’s first responders. At 9:45 a.m. Governor Frank Keating sent all state nonemergency personnel home and made a verbal declaration of disaster.


Oklahoma City first responders had received training at the Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, MD, and were well versed in the Incident Command System that provides multi-agency, coordinated response in the wake of a disaster.

Unified Response


Throughout the rescue and recovery efforts during the aftermath of the April 19, 1995, bombing, people from all walks of life, in many different professions came to help. That same day, rescue workers from Arizona, and as far away as New York began flooding into Oklahoma City to help.

Such an incident is so difficult to understand, but in Oklahoma City the response was not what might have been anticipated. Instead of filling people with fear, the reaction was one of pulling people together and helping each other. One journalist captured this when she said her first image of the Oklahoma City bombing was not of people running away from the building but running to the building to help each other.

This video illustrates the public’s overwhelming support of first responders. Public expressions of caring and concern were shown through mini-memorials that sprang up near the bomb site, the transition of a statewide Restaurant Association Show into food service for the first responders, and the recognition of the need for a family assistance center and the multi-roles it must play in providing information, comfort and psychological support. Public leaders also recognized the importance of providing mental health services to local school children and the need to hold a Memorial Service on the Sunday following the incident to allow for a time of public mourning.