U.S. officials face the challenge of coordinating many levels of
government in an emergency, whether a natural disaster or a terrorist
attack. They are addressing the challenge at
the Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, California.
From hurricanes on the Gulf Coast to earthquakes in California, each
part of the country faces different dangers. The common threat of
terrorism is shared by communities throughout the United States.
from around the country come to the Center for Homeland Defense and
Security to evaluate the threats in an executive training forum and a
graduate program that leads to a master's degree. The center, which is
operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on the campus of
the Naval Postgraduate School, also offers seminars for mayors and
governors and their staffs.
A Los Angeles Fire Department
deputy chief, Mario Rueda, is taking part in the executive leader's
program. He says wildfires and earthquakes always threaten California,
and the work of his department has expanded.
whether it be from hazardous materials, urban search and rescue, issues
of plane crash, transportation accidents, sinkings of boats in the
port, subways, high-rise buildings, just a whole variety of events now
that a firefighter has to be trained and prepared to respond to on a
24-hour basis, seven days a week, and the public expects proficiency
when we get there," Rueda said.
New Jersey, on the
U.S. East Coast, is the most densely populated state, notes deputy
attorney general Tim Crowley, general counsel for the New Jersey
office of homeland security preparedness.
have a lot of critical infrastructure right on top of each other with
population centers right there, so everything is right on top of each
other - chemical plants, petroleum plants, airports, those kind of
things, with fairly big cities," Crowley said.
and the Gulf Coast face annual hurricanes, but Scott McAllister,
Florida's deputy homeland security advisor, says the state must be
ready for unforeseen disasters, both natural and man-made. He says the
terror attacks of September 11, 2001, offer a prime example.
not a lot of folks have envisioned the concept of airliners being used
to be flown into buildings as a weapon. The issue we face is really
trying to prepare for and anticipate that unknown threat," McAllister said.
Gordon of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security notes power is
decentralized in the United States, which she says is a challenge. It
is divided among the executive branch of government, the legislature
and courts, with local, state and federal officials, each with their
own areas of authority.
"It takes all
three levels of government, all branches of government at all three
levels, as well as the private sector, to make it happen. So it is a
challenge, but I have seen it work," Gordon said.
90 people a year graduate from the center's master's-degree program in
homeland security. Another 30 complete the executive-leader's program.
Gordon says that addressing today's threats takes the kind of cooperation, discussion and planning that happens here.