By Jim Kouri
As East Coast states, cities and towns brace for Hurricane Sandy, emergency response personnel will implement the Homeland Security Department’s “All-Hazards Plan” that addresses man-made (terrorist attacks, industrial accidents) and natural (earthquakes, hurricanes) disasters, according to several police chiefs and unit commanders in the New York metropolitan area, which includes New Jersey and Connecticut.
President Barack Obama’s national security team, the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security notified law enforcement agencies and associations, such as the National Association of Chiefs of Police, about the Obama Administration’s policy of using more military resources during “emergencies.”
Government officials reported that the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator met with the Commander of NorthCom (U.S. Northern Command), to discuss pre-disaster planning, response and recovery in support of the federal response to the hurricane as well as any floods and other potential disasters, according to law enforcement and emergency management sources.
The meeting reinforced the important relationship between the two organizations and focused on the operational role of the National Guard and NorthCom and what resources and skills they will bring to any major Federal effort related to all-hazards preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. It was also an opportunity to meet operational leaders who would fill key positions in those support efforts, according to Captain Carl Lepatina of the Alton Grove, N.J., Police Department.
According to officials from the Homeland Security Department, FEMA and Northern Command share a common interest and a unified approach to disaster response and recovery.
“Both organizations also understand that the most effective plans to save lives and protect property begins with preparedness. This meeting was an important stepping stone to ensure mutual preparedness and effective planning in support of state and local officials,” said former New Jersey police commander Stephen Rodgers.
Homeland Security Department officials offered these two rationales for their joint ventures with the Department of Defense:
“Emergency preparedness is everyone’s responsibility. Everyone should have a personal response plan for a disaster, everyone should know who their first responders are at the local and state level, and everyone should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least the first 72 hours.
“FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.”
NorthCom was established about a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and is responsible for an area of operations that includes the United States, Canada and Mexico. It serves as a “one-stop-shopping” point for military support in case of an attack on American soil.
However, according to officials speaking during a teleconference, the Obama Administration expanded that role to include natural disasters or emergencies that were once the domain of state and local authorities.
For information on hurricanes and hurricane safety visit the National Hurricane Center web site.