Homeland Security: Suggestions from the Best Practices in America
Kemp, Roger L., Contemporary Review
MERIDEN, Connecticut, is a city of just under 60,000 located in the middle of the state between New Haven and Hartford. I serve as the city manager and, like other public officials across the United States, I have in the last three years paid much greater attention to emergency response issues than ever before.
I wanted to find the best practices across the country and I did, but they were scattered and dispersed so I decided to compile them into a single source book. What follows is a summary of some of these practices. The successful practices have forged a close working relationship between Public Works, Police, Fire, and Health Departments. All the employees of these departments are cooperating now more than ever on homeland security issues.
The future of homeland security will depend upon the preparedness initiatives at the local level. Local government officials are taking the dangers posed by a possible terrorist attack seriously and, since September 2001, have implemented the state-of-the-art practices examined in this article. The best practices examined include many different sizes of cities from all geographic regions of the US. I think many of these measures will be of use in other countries, particularly in Britain, which faces similar threats. All the new measures fall into one or more of the four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
There are numerous federal programmes available to assist local officials in the mitigation phase of their emergency management plans. Many of these training programmes are provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the US Fire Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, Health and Human Services, Defense, and Energy. Contact should be made directly with these organizations to determine the details, availability, and location of their respective training programmes. Many of these programmes are provided free of charge, or for a limited cost, to local government officials. In many cases, these training programmes are listed on the internet websites of these federal agencies.
In 2002, Thomas Ridge, the Director of the Office of Homeland Security (now the head of this new Cabinet department), set forth a national warning system for advising all levels of government--federal, state, and loca1--as well as the American public, of the possible risk of a terrorist attack. Under this five-level colour-coded warning system, several levels of possible terrorist threats confronting the nation are specified. They are: low (green), guarded (blue), elevated (yellow), high (orange), and severe (red). This national alerting system spells out various 'protective measures' suited to each warning category. So far, the highest level of alert the nation has witnessed is 'orange.'
To analyse and assess the threat-level of possible terrorist acts by individuals or groups within their jurisdiction, city and county officials must work with the appropriate state and federal agencies. Possible terrorist targets, both public and private, must be examined, analysed, and ranked by their level of possible risk. Appropriate safeguards and security measures should then be taken according to this ranking process. This comprehensive approach to emergency management fits well with FEMA's Integrated Emergency Management System (IEMS), which provides the necessary framework for an all-hazards approach to emergency preparedness. The more possible targets a community has, the greater the reliance of its public officials on using this model of threat analysis and assessment.
Certain types of construction are more likely to withstand a terrorist attack than others. High-quality sprinkler systems and new fireproof roofing materials, for example, can reduce the chance of fire. Legal limits on building heights and building setbacks can also lessen potential damage from attacks. …