Judges, fire marshals, police chiefs, emergency management coordinators and fire chiefs were among 90 individuals from around the state who gathered at the College Station Hilton May 31-June 2 to help draft a strategic plan for combating terrorism in the Lone Star State. At stake: $2.9 million from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Dr. Kem Bennett, appointed by Gov. George W. Bush as the state’s point person on the DOJ monies, called on city officials and key emergency response personnel from throughout Texas to help with the task of determining how the funds will be dispersed. The participants were divided into four working groups: threat, vulnerability, capabilities and needs, and public health.
Facilitators helped group members work through key reporting issues. On the final day of the conference, each group made a presentation on its findings. Most of the groups were concerned that facilities in overlapping jurisdictions might be overlooked in the planning process. Their solution was to clearly spell out which jurisdiction would be responsible for reporting on state and federal buildings located in their jurisdiction.
Dr. Bennett was impressed with how hard the participants worked. “It was gratifying to find some commonality of feedback from the four different groups. I think the conference was a success from our standpoint, because we got some very excellent feedback,” he told those in attendance.
Suggestions made by the working groups are being incorporated into the reporting instrument that will be mailed to mayors and county judges around the state. Charley Todd, with TEEX’s National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center, is responsible for making the changes. Todd, who coordinated the conference, said his biggest challenge is making the revisions in time to get the documents printed and mailed by the target date.
Todd said participants rated the conference highly and seemed satisfied with the process selected to draft a state strategic counterterrorism plan, a requirement to receive DOJ funds.