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emergency preparedness

House committee approves bevy of homeland security bills

Legislation would impact port security, TWIC program and the nation's preparedness for WMD attack
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05/11/2012

WASHINGTON—The House Committee on Homeland Security this week approved a group of bills that would impact, among other things, the country's preparedness for an attack by weapons of mass destruction, port security, and the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program.

DHS slashes list of eligible cities to receive anti-terrorism funding, cuts program by $780m

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Monday, May 23, 2011

I was on vacation last week in Grand Cayman, soaking up the sun and enjoying the freedom of "unplugging" myself from the constant connectivity that we all know and love/hate. Now I'm back, adjusting to the rainy and cold weather here in Maine and trying to catch up with all the news. I just saw that on May 19, the Department of Homeland Security announced its grant guidance and application kits for 2011 preparedness grants.

These 12 grant programs total $2.1 billion for states to prepare for terrorist attacks, disaster and other emergencies. These programs include State Homeland Security Program, Urban Areas Security Initiative, Transit Security Grant Program, Port Security Grant Program, Emergency Management Performance Grants, and more. All preparedness grant applications are due no later than June 20, 2011, except for Transit Security Grant Program applications, which are due no later than July 5, 2011.

However, fewer cities and states will be eligible for these grants and DHS has slashed the budget by $780 million from 2010 funding levels. Also, DHS has removed 30 cities from the list of urban centers receiving anti-terror funding, leaving only 31 high-threat urban areas eligible to receive grants this year, according to this AP report. Rep. Peter King, chair of the Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement that the cuts and allocations are a result of "this difficult fiscal climate."

Here's how the program worked out in 2010, according to the AP: 54 smaller cities were eligible to split almost $310 million in funding. Ten larger, higher-risk cities, like New York and Washington, vied for about $525 million. Thirty cities in 23 states and Washington will now share more than $662 million dollars. The lion's share, about $540 million, will be split by the 10 largest cities.

Obviously, there are several state leaders who are not happy with the DHS cuts:
Texas has been hit the hardest, according to this article: Austin, El Paso and San Antonio will lose a combined $14.5 million in Urban Areas Security Initiative grants, the largest dollar amount of any state.

Also, Sen. Joe Lieberman objects to the cut, which will halve Connecticut's security funds. "I understand that everyone must sacrifice to bring our federal deficit under control," Lieberman said in a statement. "But I do not support cutting the budget on the back of our national security, particularly since foreign and homegrown terrorists will continue to strike us at home."

Also included in the cities losing money are Providence, R.I., and Tucson, Ariz. Providence's city emergency management director, Peter Gaynor, told the AP he was perplexed by the decision, especially given intelligence culled from the raid in Pakistan earlier this month, calling the wholesale loss of funding "a complete shock."

According to this AP article, there are ten states left with no cities receiving funds after New Orleans, Honolulu and Indianapolis were cut.

Here's a little background about the program: The grant program was launched in 2003 in response to security threats in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Initially the money was available only to New York City, Washington, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and Houston. But since 2008 more than 60 cities have been awarded the risk-based grants.

The mounting national debt means the government has to make hard decisions about what programs to cut, but do you think these relatively drastic cuts to security funding are a result of fiscal responsibility or rising complacency? Or is this a way to direct limited funds to the cities that are at the highest risk? That's what New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the AP. Bloomberg says that with resources for the program dwindling, "it's even more important to stop thinly spreading the money around the country without taking risk into account." He says "targeted cities like New York" must be the priority. Might be easy for him to say, considering this region of New York will continue to receive about the same amount - $151.5 million.

Former FEMA officer weighs in on business continuity after devastating tornadoes

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05/02/2011

WASHINGTON—The dozens of tornadoes that ripped through the South last week left 340 people dead and hundreds still unaccounted for, according to the latest reports from the Associated Press. As one of the worst natural disasters to hit the region since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, people and businesses are scrambling to recover from the incredible devastation. But is it even possible for businesses and its employees to prepare for devastation of this scale?

GE Security, Cardinal Health discuss keys to emergency preparedness abroad

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04/11/2011

LAS VEGAS—The number of international crises this year—from civil unrest in Egypt and Libya to natural disasters in Japan and Australia—have put emergency preparedness plans to the test for global companies. During a premier education session at ISC West International Conference & Exposition on April 5, two security leaders discussed their approach to preparedness and how the role of the security professional has changed through the years.

How Ernst & Young changed its emergency plans after Sept. 11

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03/28/2011

NEW YORK—In 2010, Ernst & Young, a professional services firm, was ranked by Forbes magazine as the ninth largest private company in the United States. It has member firms in more than 140 countries and employs more than 144,000 people worldwide.

DHS adopts ASIS standard for emergency preparedness

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06/21/2010

WASHINGTON—On June 15, the Department of Homeland Security announced the adoption of the final standards for the Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Accreditation and Certification Program (PS-Prep), which is aimed at improving organizational resilience and preparedness in the private sector.

Campus shooting police chief under fire

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Donald Grady, the chief of police who was hailed as a heroic leader when a gunman opened fire at Northern Illinois University in February of 2008, has been placed on a 30-day paid leave while an independent commission investigates allegations of bribery, according to this article.

However, Grady has a lot of supporters as well, largely as a result of his actions regarding the campus shooting where a man opened fire in a classroom, killing five students and injuring 21 others. The article says that when the first reports of the shooting came into Grady's office, he ran the near-quarter mile from his office to the scene.

The bribery charges stem from allegations accusing Grady of threatening the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and offering him an opportunity for post-graduate employment in exchange for a positive story about an NIU police officer who later resigned.

In addition to the bribery charges, the article states that "law-enforcement officials in DeKalb County find him uncooperative to the point of hostile. Some school officials fault his controlling nature and combative personality."

That's not a good sign. Everyone I've spoken with about campus security issues has emphasized the importance of working closely with local law enforcement. One would think that would be very evident to Grady who has actually executed the campus shooting response plan and understands the important role of law enforcement. But, of course, these are only allegations. We'll have to wait and see what the commission finds. Stay tuned...

...but school just started

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

This school year is not off to a good start in terms of security. Just read an article about a shooting yesterday at Skyline College in San Bruno, Calif. The article says a student was shot and injured in a parking lot. The campus was evacuated and classes have been canceled for the day while police try to locate the suspect(s). [On a possibly inappropriate side note: The article did say that police believe the suspects are driving a fluorescent purple Ford Escort with paper license plates. I know it's California, but still, I think that might stand out.]

Anyway, I just got off the phone with the security director at Carleton University who recently completed a $1.6 million project to upgrade security on campus. They did everything from adding more video cameras and a mass notification system to training students as peace officers (read the article here). The security director there, Len Boudreault, said that of all the measures he anticipates having the greatest impact will be the student "auxiliary special constables" (I think it's a Canadian thing). This "peer education" approach to security allows the department to "reach out to students and listen and hear what they have to say and it's a method of communication that allows us to send our message the other way," he said. That message reminds me of my visit to Bowdoin last year, where the security director there, Randy Nichols, emphasized that he wanted students to know him and all his security staff on a first name basis. I don't know that building a personal relationship with students would have necessarily prevented the incident at Skyline College, but it wouldn't hurt either.