By Anthony Lanzillotti
Oklahoma Continues to provide more resources for first responders and counter-terrorism personnel
The Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) recently opened its doors to the public to honor the victims of the 1995 terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building. MIPT, which was created in 1999, sponsors research on equipment, training, and procedures that might help first responders prevent future terrorist attacks and/or respond to mass-casualty incidents of any type. During the commemoration ceremonies, deliberately scheduled during the Week of Hope, VIPs, special guests, and everyday Oklahoma citizens were able to browse MIPT’s terrorism knowledge base via computer and view the various other memorials dedicated to victims of terrorism. The MIPT knowledge base – which is free online, and constantly updated with new reports, studies, journals, and other publications – provides a useful additional tool for law-enforcement officers and first responders.
Related Note: Dan Biby, president of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Association of Contingency Planners, has authored a new field-reference guide for first responders and public health officials. His “Disaster Dictionary” includes over 1,200 terms and phrases, with accompanying descriptions, related to disasters of various types as well as a number of appendices – the latter include helpful information on weapons of mass destruction and a useful summary of the U.S. Incident Command System.
Biby is an original member of the Tulsa Partners, a volunteer organization dedicated to preparedness, and has been an emergency management planner and trainer in Oklahoma for over 16 years. Biby compiled the dictionary because of his own experience, pointing out that responders from different disciplines “have to be able to speak a common language” if they are to be able to deal with the numerous difficult issues confronting them. The use of a common terminology “is the first step,” he said. Biby’s “Disaster Dictionary” is published by K&M Publishers and Brookside Group Ltd.
Texas New partnerships in homeland security and emergency preparedness are formed
Texas sheriffs in towns and cities along the Mexican border have united to form what they call the Texas Border Sheriffs’ Coalition. Their goal is to speak with a unified voice in seeking additional federal Homeland Security grant funds for security and preparedness. Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr., the coalition chairman, said that the group’s goal is “to obtain some type of federal funding to be able to work our border issue as it pertains to protecting the public in general.” Webb County Sheriff Rick Flores added that terrorists “will not hesitate to pay drug cartels to get them across the border.” He also commented on intelligence reports that continue to indicate the possibility of terrorists using the Mexico-Texas border as an allegedly easy way to illegally enter the United States. The coalition was formed following recent reports of inadequacies in border security and the controversial deployment of a large number of volunteer “Minutemen.”
Groups in other parts of Texas have formed similar partnerships, primarily to improve training and interoperability. The Kerrville Independent School District (KISD), which was awarded $104,000 in grant funding last year to help in state efforts in emergency preparedness, teamed up last week with instructors from the Kerrville Police Department to host a joint training session attended by Kerrville police officers, Kerr County deputies, members of the Texas Department of Public Safety, and Texas Parks and Wildlife agents, among others. Additional training will soon be offered to KISD teachers, officials said, and to fire and emergency services personnel. KISD Special Programs Director Kendall Young and Superintendent Dan Troxell were on hand to observe the new training programs and to review emergency preparedness plans drafted by KISD.
Indiana Agencies address suspicious activity and fraud
Representatives of at least two healthcare facilities in the state of Indiana have reported suspicious incidents during which unauthorized personnel seem to have gained access to various sections of the facilities. In one incident, two unidentified people dressed in business attire and carrying clipboards walked into the outpatient ward of Porter Hospital in Valparaiso and asked for a tour of the facility. An alert employee challenged the pair after they had gained access, causing them to leave before they could beentified and/or questioned further. A similar incident was reported at the St. Vincent Hospital and Health Services facilities in Indianapolis, where, according to authorities, an unspecified number of men tried to access restricted areas. Hospital officials said that the intent of the trespassers has not yet been determined.
Indiana Department of Health spokesman Andy Zirkle confirmed the report at one Indianapolis hospital, but would not go into detail. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations are carrying out their own investigations of the two incidents. These reports follow previous incidents of similar suspicious activity at healthcare facilities in Los Angeles, Boston, and Detroit, as well as growing concerns over the security of radioactive medical isotopes stored at these and other facilities. Both of the Indiana facilities employ security personnel, but the exact number on duty at any given time will vary from day to day. However, as indicated by the Valparaiso incident, an alert and proactive staff member can add an additional effective layer of preparedness to deter illegal activity. Awareness training for healthcare workers is currently among the major personnel issues being considered nationwide, and some states have already included such training in their security programs.
Related Note: The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) has released a public notice to caution the public against fraudulent phone calls being placed to victims of recent storm and tornado disasters. The notice explains that various unknown individuals have been soliciting personal information, including bank account numbers, from victims afterentifying themselves as representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). TheHS notice informs Indiana residents that FEMA disaster-assistance funds are provided at no charge to individual recipients, and requests that fraudulent phone calls involving this type of solicitation be reported immediately to local law-enforcement officials.
Kansas Responders get “Tough” and go wireless
Five jurisdictions in the state of Kansas have deployed a new wireless technology system for use in law-enforcement and emergency-response operations. The principal components of the system – created by CDW Government Inc. of Lansdowne, Va. – are Panasonic Toughbook® laptop computers that have been installed in patrol cars and other emergency vehicles. These rugged computers apply Intergraph Public Safety’s Computer Aided Dispatch System to augment and improve the information sharing, coordination, and dispatch capabilities of a number of intrastate departments.
The five jurisdictions utilizing the system are four cities – Leawood, Olathe, Overland Park, and Shawnee – and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. Each jurisdiction is now able to receive and view information from the other participating jurisdictions via laptop and to use the information received to respond more quickly to evolving emergencies. Each user is also able to use the system to access state, local, and federal databases, a capability that translates into faster and more direct receipt of pertinent information. The system also is fitted with software that can translate English into Spanish, and vice versa, giving police officers and other responders yet another tool for communicating with crime and disaster victims, and with other citizens. Officials said that the system also has improved productivity, because the system allows users to complete official reports while remaining in the field.