Homeland department to allot $100 million for emergency preparedness

The Homeland Security Department announced on Tuesday that it will allocate $100 million this year for emergency preparedness in major U.S. cities.

The funding will be distributed under the urban-area security initiative and is aimed at improving the ability of local governments to prepare for and respond to potential threats, including terrorist activities. Already the department has made available to local governments $566 million to purchase emergency equipment, pay for improved training and conduct emergency exercises.

The department awarded nearly $25 million to New York City; $18 million to Washington, D.C., more than $12 million to Los Angeles, $11 million to Seattle, more than $10 million each to Chicago and San Francisco, and more than $8 million to Houston.

Additionally, the administration has asked that Congress provide $2 billion more in fiscal 2003 to help states and localities pay for terrorism preparations.

Meanwhile, a Bush administration official told a Senate panel on Tuesday that Homeland Security's emergency preparedness and response directorate is undergoing a restructuring designed to bolster cooperation among state and local emergency response agencies.

In a prepared statement before the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Michael Brown, undersecretary for emergency preparedness and response, said he has "ordered an internal reorganization" of the directorate, which is charged with mitigating risk and responding to incidents caused by terrorism or natural disasters.

The directorate, he said, "will be divided into four disciplines-preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. This reorganization reflects the traditional areas of emergency management" and "resembles the organizational flow used by many states."

Brown also said the directorate is requesting funds in fiscal 2004 for several initiatives, including implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which will work to coordinate and integrate emergency response capabilities at all levels of government.

The agency also is seeking $200 million to update the flood-mapping system. "More than two-thirds of the maps are more than 10 years old," he said, adding that most of them "have outdated streets that make it difficult to precisely determine if a property is located in a floodplain."

The information, which is used millions of times a year by communities, lenders, insurance agents and others, also is incompatible with Geographic Information System technology, he said.

The $200 million budget request, according to Brown, would help create a system that would allow states and localities to better manage flood data and share it with Homeland Security.

"Through the flood-map modernization program, we will enable easy access and exchange of flood-hazard data through the Internet," he said. "This system will provide tools allowing the effective use of information for making decisions that reduce vulnerability to flood risk."