Local governments and planning agencies must adapt to constantly-evolving terrorist threats with regular evaluations of emergency plans and policies, Gerald E. Connolly, chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and chair of the National Capital Region Emergency Preparedness Council (EPC), said yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Red Cross of the National Capital Area.
“If 9/11 and Katrina taught us anything, it’s that we can’t stop preparing," Connolly said. "We must adopt a culture of continual preparedness. Those who wish to harm us are continually plotting, and our plans must continually evolve to meet new threats and new challenges."
Connolly, the keynote speaker, told the more than 200 volunteers, donors and staff that preparedness should become a way of life for the region's citizens.
The Red Cross meeting came on the heels of a new strategic plan for regional homeland security that was approved by the EPC during National Preparedness Month in September. The plan -- which took into account concerns brought about by Hurricane Katrina -- will provide an emergency preparedness roadmap for the next several years. Connolly told yesterday's guests that the plan focuses on four major components:
- Fostering decision making and planning in areas such as staff training and program testing;
- Engaging the community through efforts such as outdoor warning systems and preparedness information in different languages;
- Preventing emergencies through efforts such as improving communication among first responders;
- Increasing response capacity through measures such as purchasing more 800 megahertz radios and increasing the ability to decontaminate people in the event of a chemical attack.
As part of regional preparedness efforts, the Red Cross is launching a Century Campaign with the goal of building the best prepared, most responsive and fully engaged community in the nation in times of disaster. When the campaign is complete, first responders and support personnel would be able to provide mass care for 50,000 for 10 days. Current infrastructure would provide for 5,000 people for two days.
“The next few years will be among our most challenging," said Chief Executive Officer Linda C. Mathes. "We at the American Red Cross want to thank the people of the community for continuing to help us carry out the mission of making it prepared, ready and engaged. They, our friends and neighbors, are how we get this done.”
Co-chairing the Century Campaign are the former Oklahoma Governor and Mrs. Frank Keating.