Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 14, 2006

DC metro area issues homeland security strategy

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on September 14, 2006

The DC metropolitan area issued a new homeland security strategic plan yesterday, available at the website of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and discussed in a story in today’s Washington Post:

After two years of painstaking effort, officials from the Washington region approved a homeland security strategic plan yesterday, listing steps to improve disaster response in everything from decontaminating victims of a chemical attack to providing for stranded pets.

The 118-page plan takes aim at one of the main problems in coping with a disaster: the fragmentation of the region, which includes more than 20 cities and counties and scores of federal agencies, spread out over two states and the District.

“This is actually a very significant milestone in regional preparedness,” said Gerald E. Connolly (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. He oversaw a meeting of officials from local and state governments and the Department of Homeland Security at which the document was unanimously approved.

“Trying to bring all these folks and cultures to the table . . . is not an easy task. But it’s an essential task,” Connolly added.

The report was delivered a year later than promised, and several months after a hearing in which U.S. senators blasted regional officials and the Department of Homeland Security for moving too slowly. The plan outlines goals for homeland security spending and activities for the next three years.

Some projects, however, have already begun — for example, the development of an evacuation plan for the region, and a high-tech communications system for emergency responders.

As a resident of the DC metro area, I’m hopeful that this is a sign that the local governments in the region are improving their preparedness for a terrorist attack. Incidents in recent years such as the DC sniper shootings and the flooding of key segments of the DC metro have raised concerns about DC’s preparedness for the consequences of a terrorist attack, and efforts to move forward on many of the items discussed in the strategic plan – such as a comprehensive evacuation plan – are long overdue.

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