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Homeland Security

Statement of Edward P. Plaugher

Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs

"Investing in Homeland Security, Challenges on the Front Line"

April, 09 2003

Prepared Statement
Chief Edward Plaugher, Arlington County Fire Department
“Investing in Homeland Security, Challenges on the Front Line”
April 9, 2003

Good Morning, Madam Chairman and members of the Committee, I am Edward Plaugher, Chief of the Arlington County Fire Department and I would like to begin by thanking you the Governmental Affairs Committee for having me today.
Arlington County Fire Department provides emergency services that include fire prevention and suppression, hazardous materials response, local search and rescue and emergency medical services, “front line” services, and I appear today on behalf of front line service providers across our nation. First Responders have and will continue to be on the front lines for Homeland Security assuring that each citizen is protected, a responsibility of every American, to the highest degree possible. Making sure that resources are available and that funding does not become a hurtle to First Responders, Congress designed over recent years a multi-layer and multi-department funding stream. Utilizing this approach, each department in good faith attempted to provide the much-needed resources to the “Front Line”. At the front line however, the morass of agencies and programs led to total confusion and in most cases, a “lack of action”. We as a nation cannot afford the confusion or lack of action that is currently at each end of the funding stream.

I ask that a streamlined direct approach be undertaken. This streamlined system would utilize a straightforward system and be in place as soon as possible so that we can make America safer, stronger, and better. In addition, this system would recognize that the effects of terrorists’ attacks occur locally and we must maximize our collective efforts to prevent terrorism, reduce risks, and design preparations that respond effectively to attacks that will occur within our borders. Every effort must be made to ensure that the programs are locally focused and are designed to build upon existing resources but meet national standards of readiness. Key to any effort of preparedness is citizen participation and federal resources should require at least ten percent of the funding be utilized to strengthen citizen-based preparedness. Harnessing the willingness of the people of this nation to help one another in times of crisis is a foundation of preparedness that cannot be ignored. In addition, the private sector capability in this nation is enormous and we must find a way that private sector resources and in particular, construction resources are utilized in an effective and efficient manner to assist the response effort. Providing a structure that folds public and private resources into the incident command structure will enable every community to leverage its resources into an effective Homeland Security Program.

Regional preparedness, embraced by some state systems, holds the key and like citizen preparedness should become a funding mandate. Federal funding needs to leverage its effectiveness and by using a regional approach can tackle the major void areas. Local governments, working within the state structure or in some cases, in a multi-state structure, must build a baseline of capability and should not be forced to have redundant basic resources but at the same time leave overarching critical issues without adequate capability. As an example, making sure that a region has adequate hospital “surge beds” and surge medical support staff lends itself to a regional resource sharing solution. Regional mutual aid support networks can manage all but the worst cases incidents with existing facilities if they are teamed to meet the challenge. Federal programs that mandate and support specific target goals for preparedness is however the key. Just like the real issue is not homeland security but how to be secure in an “open society”, “preparedness” is not about buying “protective suits” but about developing the systems needed to support the first responders.

In summation, I would like to ask that Congress simplify, to the extent possible the process, assure a national standard of preparedness based on best practices and the national strategy, and that the private and citizen sectors of the community are folded into the process. Assuring the nation is ready to respond to homeland security needs must be simple, straightforward, and accomplished without delay.

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