DHS digitizes flood maps

The Homeland Security Department's Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate plans to spend $200 million to modernize its flood maps over several years, undersecretary Michael Brown told Congress yesterday.

Testifying before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, Brown submitted a written statement indicating that the funds would come from a $149 million congressional appropriation and $50 million in National Flood Insurance Program policyholder fees.

More than 100,000 paper map panels will be updated and digitized to improve flood risk assessment and make insurance rates more accurate, Brown said.

DHS has issued more than 70,000 grants to local emergency response agencies to prepare for all types of hazards. The grant process encourages regional acquisition plans for emergency response equipment.

The directorate is working with the FBI, CIA and the homeland department's Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate to improve ways of evaluating the types of risks in various areas, Brown said.

Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas), ranking minority member of the committee, asked Brown whether the directorate has set standards for interoperable radio communications'the knotty and expensive problem of making sure that emergency personnel from several agencies or jurisdictions can talk with each other.

Brown said the directorate is working to develop such standards and to sidestep excessive interoperability'overwhelming the radios with too many transmissions.

'Congress has given the directorate $54 million to identify interoperability demonstration projects around the country,' Brown said. The directorate also is working to establish standards for a national incident management system, he said.

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