By Anthony Lanzillotti
Maryland April 8 Due Date for Assistance Applications
The Maryland Office of Homeland Security and the Governor’s Grants Office partnered last month with the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, University of Maryland, to provide a series of free Firefighter Grant Workshops throughout the state to help fire departments and EMS (emergency medical services) agencies prepare more effective Assistance to Firefighters applications. The applications will be accepted until 8 April. There is more than $600 million available from the federal DHS (Department of Homeland Security) grant program for state and local fire departments and EMS units. The seven workshops conducted in Maryland last month allowed fire departments from all over the state ample opportunity to participate.
The funding of homeland-security initiatives throughout the state is one of the main goals highlighted in the State of Maryland Strategy for Homeland Security, published in June 2004 by the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security. The state’s goal is to tie emergency management and anti-terrorism initiatives together in cooperative, coordinated responses, using all assets available.
Georgia Task Force Roles and Responsibilities
The Georgia Office of Homeland Security (GA OHS), currently integrating with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, has established roles and responsibilities for the ten entities – seven state government agencies, and three professional associations – of the Georgia Homeland Security Task Force (GHSTF). The purpose of the GHSTF is to serve as an advisory body to the director of the GA OHS.
Operating under GA OHS is the Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center (GISAC), which works with federal, state, and local agencies to collect intelligence information and disseminate it to appropriate security and law-enforcement entities throughout the state. GISAC also publishes an excellent weekly report that compiles relevant open-source information in an easy-to-read format. The GISAC reports include links to information sources that can be accessed by anyone via the GA OHS website.
The state of Georgia also is creating a statewide network of emergency personnel, farmers, and veterinary professionals that will be available to defend the state against the threat of agro-terrorism – i.e., acts directed against the food supply chain with the intent of inflicting economic, political, and/or psychological damage. It can be expected that Georgia’s efforts in this area will be closely monitored by other states interested in the possibility of developing similar networks.
Arizona TOPOFF4 Plans Gain Momentum
The Arizona Office of Homeland Security (AOHS) will use its own Homeland Security Coordinating Council and the Arizona Security Round Table in developing preparations for “TOPOFF4,” the executive-level Department of Homeland Security federal exercises scheduled to be carried out in 2007 in both Arizona and Oregon.
The AOHS will coordinate the state’s efforts in preparing for the large-scale exercise. The all-volunteer Coordinating Council, whose members serve without compensation, will assist with various aspects of the preparations. The council – chartered in September 2004 to review and advise on state strategies, planning, funding, concepts, and other aspects of homeland security – reports to AOHS Director Frank Navarette.
The mission of the Arizona Security Round Table, which is composed of a number of independent organizations as well as various government agencies, is to increase public awareness by the preparation and distribution of educational materials, compiled by professionals within the group, that promote safety and security. It is expected that the TOPOFF4 exercises will provide a formidable but extremely useful challenge to the AOHS and to the interoperability of the participating groups that will be assigned a broad spectrum of roles and responsibilities before, during, and after the exercises.
Mississippi A Focus on Planning, Training, Communications
Edwin L. Worthington, director of the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security (MOHS), has expressed concern about various aspects of homeland security and emergency management within the state, and said he plans a number of improvements, particularly in the areas of planning, training, and communications. Worthington tempered his expression of concern with a reminder to the citizens of Mississippi that their state was recently recognized for excellence in the dispersal of federal fund allocations.
How well those funds have been dispersed is demonstrated in the MOHS calendar, which is filled with meetings, exercises, and training opportunities scheduled throughout the state. The schedule for March includes a Grand Gulf Ingestion Pathway Federal Exercise, for example, and two three-day TEEX (Texas A&M University System, Texas Engineering Extension Service) courses, which provide WMD (weapons of mass destruction) Threat and Risk Assessment training through cooperation with the U.S. Office for Domestic Preparedness and the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center.
Related note: Mississippi’s Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport will soon be receiving new prototypical explosive-trace-detection equipment provided by the Transportation Security Administration of the Department of Homeland Security. The Reveal Explosive Detection System units are expected to be installed within the next several months. Gulfport-Biloxi is the smallest of three U.S. airports to be selected for installation of the units; the other two are Newark Liberty International in New Jersey, and John F. Kennedy International in New York.