Homeland Preparedness for Major Terrorism in 2006: Not Yet Ready for Prime Time

This year will represent a turning point for preparedness and homeland security in the United States. With Michael Chertoff firmly in place and making his own mark as the new Secretary of Homeland Security, the anticipated reauthorization of the federal bioterrorism bill and many other new perspectives and strategies on the table, changes are likely to be seen across the board. That’s a good thing and the new Secretary seems off to a strong start. The nation clearly needs more resources and smarter strategies if we are to make the progress we need. The fact is that four years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the country remains far less prepared for terrorism and catastrophic disaster than we should be.

Even in the case of understanding and meeting needs among first responder agencies, much of what is being done is shockingly random. In any given State, for instance, fire districts are using designated Homeland Security funds for widely variant purposes. One particular district may decide to use these dollars to purchase personal protective equipment; an adjacent district may go for a new truck, communication equipment or refurbishing the firehouse. None of these decisions may have any relevancy to a master response plan for a region. Such a master plan, in fact, is not likely to even exist. Consequently, stations and districts are on their own, a situation that causes legitimate concern about the real level of disaster readiness in many communities.

Disaster Policy
Disaster Preparedness