WAMU news story on COG 9/11 Panel
WTOP news story on COG 9/11 Panel
On the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a panel of area leaders discussed how governments, non-profits, and private partners have worked together to strengthen metropolitan Washington’s emergency preparedness. They gathered at the Council of Governments, which brings together leaders from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, and supports the region’s homeland security planning process.
Officials said that several major events and emergencies since 9/11—the Beltway Snipers, hurricanes and weather events, and the 2011 earthquake—have been opportunities for officials, first responders, and other key players to coordinate, communicate, and continue making improvements. Maryland Emergency Management Agency Director Kenneth Mallette and several of the panelists noted that metropolitan Washington is seen as a national leader in regional emergency coordination both during and after 9/11.
Arlington County Fire Chief James Schwartz, who was the Incident Commander at the Pentagon on 9/11, highlighted new equipment and trainings for first responders and tactical teams. Federal Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) funds have also been used to purchase emergency management software, text message alert systems, and patient tracking and disease surveillance systems at hospitals.
District of Columbia Deputy Mayor Paul Quander noted new bomb squads were created and extra gear and protective equipment were purchased for the region’s first responders. He also described ‘fusion centers’ where officials share information among partner agencies, and said the D.C Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency’s 24/7 Emergency Operations Center serves as a regional emergency information hub.
Linda Mathes, Director of the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region, said that before 9/11, the region’s mass care capacity was limited. Since then, federal and private funding have helped to greatly expand critical mass care programs and identify over 50,000 shelter spaces at 200 regional facilities.
District of Columbia Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton stressed the need to review and strengthen the performance of the Office of the federal National Capital Region Coordination. She noted that the office, which was created after the 2001 attacks, has been sharply criticized in General Accounting Office reports.
Leaders also pointed to other challenges, such as engaging young people in personal preparedness and using new technology to encourage more people to prepare for emergencies by making a plan and assembling a kit with key supplies.
To learn more about making a plan, creating a kit, or signing up for emergency alerts, officials encourage D.C. area residents to visit www.capitalregionupdates.gov