THE COURIER: FORUM STRESSES HOMELAND SECURITY

 

    By: Eric Gross

    Calling first responders the “backbone of our communities,” State Senator Greg Ball Tuesday hosted a forum in Carmel attended by some 75 representatives of emergency services agencies where training and funding issues were discussed at the Paladin Tactical Training Center.

    Ball said tens of thousands of emergency responders were found throughout the lower Hudson Valley—“an area adjacent to the top terrorist target in the world— New York City. These men and women residing in districts like mine are the first line of defense. It is imperative that these responders are well trained and well prepared because it is not a question of ‘when are we going to get attacked?’ It is the reality of the day.”

    Ball commended the paid and volunteer emergency services personnel for being “consummate professionals. Whether they be police or firefighters, EMTs, ambulance drivers or other public safety professionals, they must be taken care of.”

    Also attending the gettogether was Jerome Hauer, Commissioner of the New York State Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services, who said “roundtables such as this provide a great opportunity to hear from first responders and discuss best practices that will strengthen and enhance their training, preparedness and response capabilities.”

    Hauer also talked about the recent numbers of drug overdoses including prescription drug abuse: “New York State has recently created an Internet system for tracking over prescribed prescription drugs known as I-STOP,” but participants said more needed to be done.

    Putnam Deputy County Executive Bruce Walker praised the forum for “letting people know what the needs of others are all about prior to an event. Roundtables like this one facilitate a smooth transition when a crisis takes place. Everyone will be on the same page and speaking the same language allowing for the leverage of needed resources.”

    Putnam Legislature Chairman Carl Albano agreed that “interagency communication allowed for varying partners to sit at the same table realizing the needs of each other.”

    Sheriff Don Smith told the group that the gathering was especially important in the wake of Monday’s announcement from Washington that America was cutting back on the size of its military to pre-World War II levels: “I am deeply concerned about the safety of our country. Homeland security is now even more important based on the policy in Washington that America is no longer promoting the policy of peace through strength.”

    Smith, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general, said “America must have the strongest military in the world with the strongest defenses here at home. Unfortunately, we are moving in the wrong direction. While we must fight to keep our military strong by keeping the policy of peace through strength, which President Reagan put into place, resulting in the bringing down of the Berlin Wall without the firing of a single shot, Americans must be prepared here at home and fighting terrorism in our own backyards in addition to preparing for hurricanes, floods, massive snowstorms and tornadoes. Meetings of this type allow us to remain prepared for any emergency.” (ARTICLE)