New Jersey State Defense and Disaster Response Plan
The September 11th attack on the World Trade Center requires that we take a closer look at the security and emergency management challenges facing the State of New Jersey. As the United States prepares for a sustained war against international terrorism, the frequency and severity of attacks against our nation will undoubtedly increase. New Jersey needs to take aggressive steps to protect and secure its people and strategic assets, and must be prepared to respond to a terrorist attack within its borders. If, we ignore the increased threats to New Jersey, it will be at our peril.
New Jersey has a basic emergency management plan in place. Its focus is on responding to an emergency. Beyond improving this response capability, we need to create a proactive plan to protect the State’s people and its strategic assets from terrorist attacks. We also need to have redundant systems in place in the event that critical systems are damaged.
Implementing a comprehensive plan to protect New Jersey’s people and strategic assets and improve its emergency response will require that the next Governor provide both personal leadership and a financial commitment to dramatically expand and enhance its defense and emergency response capabilities. The following are five detailed steps the next Governor should take to improve New Jersey’s preparedness to respond to the threat of terrorist attacks and natural disasters: 1) help our citizens understand the threats we are facing, 2) strengthen our State defense and security capability, 3) establish a command center capable of enhanced communication and coordination of defense and emergency response personnel from multiple jurisdictions, 4) advocate for more resources from the public and private sectors to implement an enhanced emergency management effort, and 5) use technology to expand the effectiveness of the response of volunteer networks in a time of crisis (aka “Team New Jersey”). These steps are outlined in further detail below.
Five Steps to Improve New Jersey’s State Defense and Disaster Response Plan
Step #1:|| Insure that New Jersey citizens understand the threat to our State and the need for action
President Bush and the United States Congress are correct to prepare our nation for a sustained war against international terrorism. The enemy we face is committed to destroying the American way of life in order to destroy worldwide support for the institutions of democracy and freedom. In fact, even now the enemy is seeking to acquire nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons to use against us.
It is the responsibility of the next Governor of New Jersey, as the leader of this state, to prepare our citizens for the difficult road ahead. He must join with the President and with other federal leaders in educating the public about the fact that this needed war on terrorism will not be pain-free: it will take time, it will require resources, it will require personal sacrifice and inconveniences, and it will cost the lives of some of our fellow citizens. But it must be won!
Step #2: || Provide for the defense of our State’s people and its strategic assets
The next Governor of New Jersey must be prepared to defend the State’s people and its strategic assets. Beyond improving the State’s emergency management plan, he must undertake a proactive effort to protect our citizens and vital resources from possible attack.
The State of New Jersey, under the leadership of the next governor, should take the following actions to protect and secure New Jersey from the threat of terrorism:
- Improve the criminal intelligence capability of the State Police, and improve its coordination with federal and local law enforcement authorities. The State Police Department has been effective at collecting information on a variety of more traditional organized crime activities. Given that New Jersey has become a base of operations for the financing and planning of recent terrorist attacks, our law enforcement agencies should be better equipped and trained to investigate these networks.
- New Jersey needs to proactively assess the threats confronting its strategic assets. A complete inventory of the State’s critical infrastructure and communications assets must be analyzed, including: government facilities, transportation facilities (roadways, railways, rest stations, ports, airports), utilities (power plants, gas mains, water reservoirs and transmission facilities, electricity transmission facilities, and broadcast, cable, internet, and telephone related infrastructure), military facilities, pharmaceutical and chemical research facilities, and hazardous material manufacturing plants.
- Strategies to protect these assets from harm and damage must be developed, commensurate with the severity of the threats they face.
- Given the important role that Newark Airport, Hudson River crossings (Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel, George Washington Bridge, PATH system) and the Delaware River crossings play in our regional economy, the threat assessment and security enhancements of these facilities must be prioritized.
- State agencies, like the Board of Public Utilities and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, must insure that we have the proper level of infrastructure redundancy to maintain vital services after an attack or disaster.
- The State must then assign its agencies and/or local and private entities to be responsible for insuring the protection of its people and strategic assets during both normal operations and times of heightened alert.
- The Governor must also advocate for the federal funding of the military and policing support that is necessary for a fully effective defense of New Jersey’s people and its strategic assets.
- The State must establish a more rigorous incident command system so that State defense and emergency response units can be proactively deployed to protect installations and respond to emergencies.
- The State must establish a more rigorous training schedule for state and local emergency response personnel to insure maximum preparedness.
- The State must take a leadership role in organizing our medical resources to prepare and respond to mass disasters, including improved triage capability at trauma centers and hospitals, improved procedures for temporary blood donation networks, improved public notification systems for casualties, and rapid deployment of mental health resources to help counsel traumatized citizens in the wake of an attack or disaster.
- The State must forge stronger working relationships with its neighboring states by conducting joint training exercises with their personnel and joining the federal Emergency Management Assistance Compact.
- The State must work with its health care providers to train for a terrorist attack or accident involving biological and chemical agents.
Step #3: || Develop a State Defense and Emergency Management Command Center
Many of these steps will take a considerable amount of time and money to fully implement, and will require an historic level of cooperation between State, county, local, and private sector entities. The State Defense and Emergency Management System will need additional resources to successfully complete this enhanced mission, including the construction of a State Defense and Emergency Management Command Center. This Center would not only serve as an incident command center to deploy state resources during a time of crisis, but also to assess future risks, create security and emergency response protocols for state and local law enforcement and emergency management units, and organize coordinated training exercises with those units to prepare for crises.
Step #4: Advocate for Resources from the Public and Private Sectors
Once the State’s enhanced security and emergency response plan is formulated, the Governor must also become the State’s chief advocate to acquire the resources necessary to have that plan implemented.
For example, the Governor must work with the State’s congressional delegation to seek federal support of enhanced security efforts, including:
The Governor must also work with private sector and utility companies to insure they are investing a proper level of resources in securing their assets and building adequate redundancy into their transmission facilities in order to deliver essential services in the wake of a terrorist attack or natural disaster.
- Expanding the capability and preparedness of the National Guard’s Flight Wing Group #177 stationed in Atlantic City so that it has the ability to protect our air space from future terrorist attacks like those on the World Trade Center. Now, the closest intercept group with this capability is stationed in Massachusetts.
- Resources to improve the communications systems that emergency response personnel use to communicate with one another during crises and intervals of high-alert. It is critical that emergency response units from multiple jurisdictions have the capability to communicate with one another during an emergency situation.
- Resources and authorization to establish a specially trained Disaster
Response Team in the New Jersey National Guard. Several states currently have such a team to help their emergency planning. New Jersey needs this added expertise.
Finally, the Governor must marshal the State’s resources to assist the family of the victims of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. For example, in the wake of the World Trade Center attack, the next Governor of New Jersey should pledge to offer free tuition at any State college or university to any child whose parent was a victim of this tragedy. This is but a small gift to the New Jersey families who have lost so much. Removing the financial burden of college tuition from a surviving spouse will help relieve these grieving families of the financial worry associated with providing for the college education of their children, and allow them instead to concentrate on healing their emotional wounds.
Step #5: Use Internet Technology to Expand the Capacity of Volunteer Networks
(aka “Team New Jersey”)
After a disaster occurs and is widely reported in the media, emergency management personnel are faced with a logistical nightmare of identifying the needs of the event’s victims and relief workers. They must establish an operation to accept donations of goods and services, and distribute those donations to people and organizations in need of assistance. Often, the generosity of our citizens is not organized effectively, resulting in the over-supply of certain items and critical shortages of others. It also takes time to identify the source of specialty items that need to be donated.
As with any logistical challenge, advanced planning is key to a successful operation. For example, using the power of the Internet, the State should establish a web site where emergency management coordinators can turn for the names and pre-verified donors of critical materials and services. The likely needs associated with different disaster scenarios could be analyzed in advance with donors and volunteers identified in advance so literally “at the touch of a button” appropriate assistance could be solicited and immediately begin to be provided. Imagine how much more efficient the last week could have been if emergency management commanders knew who the contact person was for the top ten suppliers of work boots, hard hats, respirator masks, and flashlights.
Using this system, regional donation centers could be pre-identified so that emergency response units could easily direct where donations from the public should be delivered and prepare to transport those deliveries to effected areas. Registries of medical personnel and other experts could be developed for immediate recall.
The generosity of the people of New Jersey is limitless. However, a more efficient and effective delivery system will help leverage those resources, save critical time in their delivery, and take less emergency response resources to coordinate, thereby allowing them to concentrate on more critical security and rescue operations.
The United States has properly committed itself to a sustained war against international terrorism. Given New Jersey’s important role in the economy and its proximity to the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, our State is a likely target for future attack. Therefore, the next Governor must lead the State in its efforts to dramatically expand and enhance its defense and emergency response capabilities. Specifically, the next governor should: 1) help our citizens understand the threats we are facing, 2) strengthen our State defense and security capability, 3) establish a command center capable of enhanced communication and coordination of defense and emergency response personnel from multiple jurisdictions, 4) advocate for more resources from the public and private sectors to implement an enhanced emergency management effort, and 5) use technology to expand the effectiveness of the response of volunteer networks in a time of crisis (aka “Team New Jersey”).