Focus on cross-preparedness key in homeland security
| 02.15.2006 | 07:46:26 | Views: 2263 | ID:
February 15 '06: There is no difference between preparing for a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina or a nuclear bomb attack from al-Qaeda. That is the message Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff relayed Monday.
"I want to tell you, I unequivocally and strongly reject this attempt to drive a wedge between our concerns about terrorism and our concerns about natural disasters," the secretary said. "That kind of wedge makes no sense, and it does a disservice to all of you here who are working very hard to protect against any kind of disaster of whatever caused," Chertoff told an audience during the mid-year conference at the National Emergency Management Association.Chertoff's comments came during a talk which outlined changes underfoot in the department and in its satellite agencies which include the embattled Federal Emergency Management Agency - the federal agency created to coordinate emergency response between federal, state and local responder agencies. After taking control of the agency in February 2005, Chertoff began the Second Stage Review, a commission which would direct the policy course of the department to make "sure the course was properly set." Chertoff said in the Second Stage Review, some of the questions asked were: "Are we prepared? What do we need to do to get better prepared" What does the federal government need to do to work better with states and localities to make sure we are prepared?" Those same questions were addressed in a Congressional inquiry into the federal and, subsequent state and local, response to Hurricane Katrina, the most costly and largest natural disaster in US history. The Associated Press reported the 520-page report titled "A Failure of Initiative" found the federal response to the disaster to be victim of "passivity" and that "The preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina should disturb all Americans." The report, which was released on Wednesday, also found, "Earlier presidential involvement might have resulted in a more effective response." Additionally, "The single biggest failure of the federal response was that it failed to recognize the likely consequences of the approaching storm and mobilize federal assets for a post-storm evacuation of a flooded city," the AP quoted the report. During his speech, Secretary Chertoff said the most urgent priority for DHS and FEMA will be "to take a hard, honest look at what we can do to improve our response capability and make substantial progress toward that goal by the looming hurricane season."
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