Florida a model for homeland

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida has become a national model for how law enforcement and first responders should organize their efforts to protect the homeland, officials said March 4.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Florida has created a series of task forces in various regions to oversee threat prevention and response. State officials have worked with industry representatives to develop antiterrorism measures, and they have used technology to create networks with federal, state and local agencies. Florida also has created a statewide epidemiology network.

With a dozen theme parks, other major tourist attractions and 1,350 miles of coastline, Florida faces a major challenge daily in trying to protect its citizens from terrorism, said Steve Lauer, domestic security chief for Florida's Department of Law Enforcement.

"We strongly believe that the homeland will be secured," said Lauer, a former Marine who was in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983 when the Marine Corps barracks were bombed, killing more than 200 Americans.

Lauer said Florida is one of 13 states participating an effort involving the Justice and the Homeland Security departments to disseminate information via a Web-based database. The system enables police to access warnings and alerts from the federal government.

But Florida also has plans to minimize any attacks, respond with the right people and equipment, recover quickly, especially information technology systems, and make sure first responders are properly trained and equipped to do their jobs.

He said Florida also is working with the private sector because 80 percent of the state's infrastructure is privately owned.

"It cannot be done by the public sector alone," Lauer told the Information Processing Interagency Conference meeting, the annual conference of the Government Information Technology Executive Council.

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