- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2001

Leaders of the Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG) yesterday called on the federal government to be prepared to give money directly to local jurisdictions that respond to future terrorists attacks.

Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry said the war on terrorism is not only being fought in Afghanistan, it's being fought by local officials on American soil.

"What we have, in essence, is an army of local public workers who are dispatched in an emergency," he said. "And it's the federal government's responsibility to pay for that."

Mr. Curry spoke from a panel at the COG's annual conference. The meeting at the National Press Club focused on how the local governments have mobilized to improve emergency preparedness since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and others, including Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, echoed Mr. Curry's statement, and called on the federal government to do a better job of letting local officials know what's going on during a major disaster.

"It's coordination and communication that we need to do better," Mr. Duncan said. "On September 11, I was on the phone with Wayne Curry when we heard on the radio that the state of Maryland had closed all schools in the state of Maryland with absolutely no communication with us."

Mr. Fisette, whose police and fire departments were integral in responding to the attack on the Pentagon in Arlington County, said, "We have federal installations here which make this area unique."

Mr. Curry said the federal government should pay for a regional communication network to connect police and fire units from local jurisdictions in and around the District.

"We've asked for direct federal aid for localities rather than federal aid to state governments that then go to local jurisdictions," he said.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said reducing the fears of citizens by making better information available in a more timely fashion "was a big, big lesson learned" after September 11. "We didn't have the level of communication [with the public] that we should have had."

Some area politicians yesterday praised the region's response to September 11. "Much of the response went very well," said Fairfax County Board Chairman Katherine Hanley, who also was on the panel. "Much of the emergency preparedness that we establish two years ago in preparation for Y2K has served us in good stead."

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