New FEMA Funding Priorities; Inside A Mobile Command Center

New FEMA Funding Priorities; Inside A Mobile Command Center

by , / June 2, 2008

Tacoma, Wash. - Federal emergency management grants will require state and local agencies to spend more money on planning, and less on acquiring resources and attending exercises, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) preparedness coordinator for the Pacific Northwest.

FEMA believes states and localities have reached a point of exercise overload, according to Patrick Massey, division director and federal preparedness coordinator of FEMA's Region 10. Therefore, more emphasis will be given to emergency response planning and citizen preparation when FEMA awards funds.

Massey spoke April 2 at the Partners in Emergency Preparedness Conference in Tacoma. He outlined some other philosophical shifts under way at FEMA:

  • changing the agency's approach from "wait-and-see" to "deploy-and-hold";
  • evolving from centralization to decentralization;
  • shifting grant priorities from resources to intelligence;
  • emphasizing homogeneity instead of heterogeneity; and
  • focusing on strengthening citizen preparedness.

Massey also warned against concentrating homeland security efforts solely on external threats. Pointing to the Roman Empire's fall, he said societies ignore internal risks at their own peril. Indeed, the message that homeland security encompasses internal threats - such as the national debt, trade deficits, unfunded pensions and global warming - was a popular theme at the conference.

"Will we kill ourselves like Rome did?" Massey asked. "For great societies to prosper, they have to figure out [how to deal with] both internal and external threats."

- Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor

Mobile Command Center Helps Air Show Soar
Sacramento, Calif. - In March, Sacramento skies were torn asunder by mighty flying machines. The third annual California Capital Airshow drew nearly 80,000 people to Mather Field (formerly Mather Air Force Base). Onlookers marveled at the technological achievements and performers' piloting skills.

Government Technology got a look inside the mobile command center deployed for the show. Operated by the Folsom, Calif., Police Department (PD), the mobile command center facilitated communication between local police, sheriff, fire and the National Guard.

"The COM 7401 was built for command and communications. We have 32 radio resources we can bring in - radios, phones, satellite phones. Major command staff, fire captains, police lieutenants would sit in here and make decisions on a major disaster," said Chuck Schuler, Folsom PD's telecommunications engineer.

The vehicle resembles a motor home and includes a rack of radio technology that lets all responders communicate with disparate type of radios.

"This is the brain of our communication system," Schuler explained. "We have 800 MHz radios, UHF, VHF, marine, aircraft, amateur radio. We can talk to any personnel - public safety, amateur or otherwise - in the region."

The command center also boasts touchscreens, integrated surveillance monitoring and a big high-definition TV.

- By Chad Vander Veen, Associate Editor Hot List
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Chad Vander Veen

Chad Vander Veen previously served as the editor of FutureStructure, and the associate editor of Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.

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