Telling Our Story in DC
When the next big disaster hits the Bay Area, will our first responders have the right equipment, training, information, and public warning systems in place? To make sure that we do, the Bay Area relies in part on an annual federal grant from U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) called the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), to help prepare our region for a major disaster. While the grant is focused on terrorism, the planning, equipment, training, and exercises funded by the grant can be applied to most major disasters, from earthquakes to tsunamis to wildland fires to zombie apocalypse, as well as every day emergency response.
We make sure to stay in touch with our friends in Washington to let them know what we’ve accomplished with our UASI grant, and what our ongoing needs are. Last week, six emergency managers from around the Bay Area did just that, traveling to the nation’s capital to tell our story to DHS to Congress. Our group included Bay Area UASI General Manager Craig Dziedzic, DEM Policy and Legislation Assistant Amiee Alden, and partners from Oakland, Alameda County, Santa Clara County, and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC).
Keeping in Touch
Our Bay Area emergency managers met with officials from DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to discuss how our UASI grant has helped us get ready for the next disaster. We met with freshman Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), and with staff for several members of the Bay Area congressional delegation, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Representatives Barbara Lee, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, and Mike Honda, as well as staff for both the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees.
How Has the UASI Grant Helped the Bay Area?
- Interoperable Communications – We are over 50% complete with a project to upgrade the radios used by police, fire, and other first responders, enabling them to communicate with each other throughout the Bay Area.
- Training and Exercises – UASI funds the annual Urban Shield exercise, which trains 4,000 first responders from the Bay Area and across the country in scenarios like urban search and rescue. First Responders from Boston trained with Urban Shield, and credited this exercise with teaching them critical skills that made a difference during the April 2013 marathon bombing.
- Public Information and Warning – UASI funds AlertSF, which sends emails and texts to San Franciscans with critical information during emergencies – sign up at www.AlertSF.org.
- Cyber security – President Obama has made cyber security a top homeland security priority. More funding would help the NCRIC to catch more criminals who use cyber-crime to disrupt businesses, steal personal information, and cost our local economy.
Something’s Missing Here…
The Bay Area UASI includes 12 counties around and near the Bay Area. But when DHS decides how much money to allocate to the Bay Area each year, they only count 7 of those counties, leaving out Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Santa Cruz, and Monterey. DHS has determined that these counties are too small to count, under the grant guidelines. But we argue that these counties include critical resources, like Travis Airforce Base in Solano County, which may become a major hub for delivering resources to the Bay Area if a large disaster knocks out our local airports, as well as the Defense Language Institute in Monterey County, the premier Department of Defense facility that trains our military translators who serve overseas.
We were grateful to Congressman Swalwell for raising this issue the very next day with the new Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, at a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Posted on March 5, 2014, in Disasters, Preparedness, Recovery, Resilience, Stories, UASI and tagged Bay Area, Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative, Community Resilience, Disability Preparedness, Disaster Response, earthquake, Homeland Security, Humanitarian Assistance, resilience, San Francisco, San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, UASI. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.