Broad approach best in emergencies, Chertoff says

Officials need to take the broadest possible approach in planning for emergency response so they can be ready to deal with a crisis regardless of the cause, the Homeland Security Department’s chief said today.

“It could be a cyberattack, it could be a pandemic flu, it could be a terrorist attack,” said DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff at the second annual National Congress on Secure Communities. Officials need to be able to merge all of their response plans so they can be ready for any situation, he said.

Chertoff pointed to the National Response Framework released in draft form by DHS in September as guidance for how to respond to different emergency situations.

Chertoff also emphasized the role that the private sector — which owns and operates most of the country’s infrastructure — had to play in preparing for and responding to a disaster.

In most cases, local officials knew best how to respond to crises that affected their communities, and the federal government should not try to take that authority away, he added.

Furthermore, there was a category of incidents that required local, state and federal officials to work together, often in prevention activities, he said, using intelligence fusion centers as an example.

But there are some national situations that require a concerted federal effort including securing the borders, high-consequence terrorist activity and catastrophic incidents.

Attendees of the two-day event are working on coming up with a National Blueprint for disaster response based on input from private industry and local and state communities.

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