- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
A joint statement signed yesterday by the top elected officials of Maryland, Virginia and the District promises more cooperation among government agencies, local authorities and timely communication with the public for greater homeland security in the region.
The deal comes nearly 11 months after September's terrorist attacks and covers joint operations among public safety, transportation and health care providers.
"Coordination doesn't happen automatically. It takes preparation and teamwork," said Tom Ridge, director of the White House Office of Homeland Security.
According to Mr. Ridge, the pact will clarify roles and responsibilities and provide a framework to allow personnel and resources to cross state lines to save lives and secure property.
Govs. Parris N. Glendening, Maryland Democrat, and Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat, joined D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Democrat, in signing a statement of support for the eight-point plan they say will help allay the concerns of residents who cross state lines each day to reach jobs and schools.
"This effort involves a cast of thousands," said Mr. Williams.
Mr. Williams noted that in addition to public safety and public health personnel, the plan calls for building stronger ties with the private sector and educational institutions that might be called upon to help respond to acts of terrorism and other emergencies.
The effort grew out of what officials describe as the successes and failures that occurred after the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon and the exposure of U.S. Postal Service employees and other federal workers to anthrax spores several weeks later.
While public-safety agencies have routinely cooperated, and the majority of mass transit is provided by a regional agency, the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of workers on September 11 practically immobilized the city.
"The federal government decided to release thousands of workers without the requisite and proper coordination with our city," Mr. Williams said.
The plan calls for officials from all three jurisdictions and the federal government to work together on plans for an orderly evacuation along designated routes. Some workers also might be required to stay at locations facing diminished threats while those at higher risks are removed.
The jurisdictions also will coordinate and consult on media messages to help avoid inaccuracies that might lead to panic and prompt citizens to seek unnecessary medical treatment and other services as occurred in the wake of the anthrax threat.
"We had real problems with rumor control," Mr. Glendening said.

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