May 14, 2008

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS

By Senator Mike Crapo

A devastating cyclone in Burma; a major earthquake across Sichuan Province, China; a volcanic eruption in Chile; powerful deadly tornados in Missouri, Oklahoma, Georgia and Virginia: It's been a spring rife with natural disasters at home and abroad. The world is mobilizing to assist those in need and, while we help those who are suffering, we must be prepared for disaster ourselves, whether it be earthquake, fire, flood or even an act of terrorism. It's important to utilize federal, state and local resources to engage in prevention and intervention of catastrophe, whatever the source.   It's good to know that Idahoans are taking important steps toward preparedness. 

 

In April, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funded a report citing Boise as vulnerable to terrorist attack, largely due to historical geophysical hazards-in particular, wildfire and flood events in recent decades. The National Interagency Fire Center, a coalition of eight federal agencies and organizations, provides fire survivability and prevention tips for those living at wildland/urban interfaces. Many state and local agencies provide this information as well.       

 

The U.S. Border Patrol in Bonners Ferry recently graduated another Citizen Academy class. This program develops a critical relationship between the Border Patrol and those living adjacent to international borders. Remote regions such as the 308-mile border section spanning northern Idaho, eastern Washington and western Montana present an attractive illegal crossing point for drug smugglers, criminals and terrorists. Cooperation between local citizens and the Border Patrol helps pre-empt disaster. 

 

Our border isn't the only place that Idahoans are involved in citizen-based disaster and security response. Idaho has 27 Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs). Operating in conjunction with DHS, CERT programs train citizens in the techniques of disaster response, fire suppression, emergency medical care and light search and rescue. In addition to CERT, the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security works with every state agency, county emergency coordinators, county commissioners, Idaho Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Idaho Citizen Corps and others.      

 

Disaster preparedness is the responsibility of citizens, including keeping emergency survival supplies, having a place to go if your home is rendered unlivable, and establishing an emergency cash reserve. Ensuring effective and adequate funding for the many federal agencies involved in disaster mitigation and response is Congress's responsibility. Through the Senate Budget Committee, I support budget items necessary for the Departments of Homeland Security, Interior, Agriculture and Defense to accomplish their multi-faceted disaster preparedness and response missions. I've supported substantially-increased funding for more border patrol agents-as of next year, at over 18,000, the number of Border Patrol agents will have doubled in eight years. I've also supported border fencing, National Guard troops on the border and advanced electronic monitoring. My position on the Senate Finance Committee gives me direct input into the manner in which revenue is raised for these important programs and initiatives. 

 

Supporting legislation is just one way for public officials to effect policy change. We also contact federal agencies and entities directly with constituent concerns. Currently, the Idaho and Washington State Senate delegations are working with the Defense Department to ensure that the 36 th Rescue Flight, based at Fairchild AFB and responsible for over 600 remote rescues and medical evacuations, stays in place. 

 

Natural disasters will happen. In today's world, terror attacks are a very real possibility as well. We may not be able to predict with absolute certainty when these catastrophes will occur, but we can work to make sure that we are ready as a family, community and nation to face what comes with bravery, fortitude and a tough spirit-education and resources at the ready. It's the Idaho way. 

 

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