- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The District’s woeful emergency-management plan during the September 11 terrorist attacks got a major overhaul during the past two years and received full accreditation from a national group of experts yesterday.

The Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP) —a voluntary program by which states are assessed for their response to emergencies — has certified the District’s procedures to respond to natural disasters and terrorist attacks as one of the best in the nation. Florida was the only other jurisdiction to receive full accreditation.

“As cities across the country reflect on September 11 with the last firefighter buried [Tuesday], I can think of no better tribute than being prepared and ready to protect our citizens, children and families,” D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday.

The accreditation was announced at the mayor’s weekly press briefing.

The announcement came as area law enforcement officials continued to take extra precautions to ensure security as the nation prepared to mark the second anniversary of the attacks today.

Maryland Transportation Authority police spent yesterday randomly checking cars entering Baltimore-Washington International Airport. MTA conducts car checks when the state raises the homeland security alert to Code Orange, or a high risk of terrorist attack.

As of yesterday, the threat level remained at Code Yellow, or an elevated risk of terrorist attack.

“It’s a measure we’ll be taking periodically,” said Cpl. Gregory Prioleau, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority police. “It’s one of the things that we’re doing that will be visible to the public.”

Cpl. Prioleau said travelers also will see more officers with bomb-detecting dogs patrolling the airport.

U.S. Park Police said they will have additional manpower in place today to ensure security, especially in light of planned demonstrations at McPherson Square and Farragut Square. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Fear said intelligence gathered from the Internet has indicated there may be an unpermitted demonstration near the White House.

In Montgomery County, Capt. John Fitzgerald said there will be increased police visibility at schools and government buildings.

“There will be a greater number of uniformed officers on duty, and we have also increased our departmentwide readiness by reviewing our emergency plans, our sensitive locations and our equipment,” Capt. Fitzgerald said. “We’re just making sure that if anything were to happen we’d be prepared.”

Meanwhile in the District, officials said communicating with residents and maximizing local and private funds to match federal dollars were key to improving the city’s emergency plan so quickly.

“Preparedness starts at home, and that’s how we got here, going church to church and neighborhood by neighborhood,” said Peter Laporte, director of D.C. Emergency Management Agency.

The District had to meet 54 standard qualifications to receive the certificate from EMAP. Among those goals are training, direction control and coordination, crisis communication, facilities, and finance and administration.

“It’s like a self-study where you look at everything you have — your strengths and weaknesses — and then you have an outside team come in and conduct a follow-up assessment,” said Jo’Ellen Countee, a spokeswoman for D.C. EMA.

Mr. Williams also thanked D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz for her work in setting up a regional task force and improving the regional emergency plan.

Mrs. Schwartz, an at-large Republican, was chairwoman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) when the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center occurred. COG is a group of leaders from the 14 cities and counties that make up the Washington metropolitan area.

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