Homeland response plan relies on connectivity

The Homeland Security Department Friday issued an initial national response plan for dealing with emergencies ranging from terrorist attacks to natural disasters.

The plan assigns response roles to existing agencies as well as new entities. It also creates the new post of principal federal official to deal with specific emergencies and directs that person to maintain connectivity among emergency response centers.

The response plan complies with Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5, which told DHS to draw up a full national plan. The initial version sets up coordinating structures including a new Interagency Incident Management Group of representatives from a broad array of agencies, from the Agriculture Department to the Postal Service.

The group will replace the department's Crisis Assessment Team, which was activated for Hurricane Isabel (Click for Sept. 18 GCN coverage).

The principal federal official, or a representative, is to act as the department's agent at disaster scenes to set up a federal joint operations center and a field office.

Whenever possible, these offices should be located together at state or local emergency centers.

The plan says the principal official 'will ensure that adequate connectivity is maintained' with tribal, local, county, state and regional operations as well as nongovernmental centers and relevant private-sector facilities. DHS already has established secure broadband links with centers in all states.

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