New Jersey Building Strong Homeland Defense

State Senator Bob Smith

 

In the guarded national atmosphere post-September 11th, homeland security is an issue at the forefront of nearly every public policy decision.  While a most of the media attention has been devoted to the federal Department of Homeland Security, a great deal is happening right here in New Jersey to prepare our state for any contingency.  In a future crisis, it will be local and state government agencies that are our on the front lines.  Given our close proximity to the 9-11 attacks and the personal losses many of us endured, being ready for any future threat is especially important to us in New Jersey.

 

The state government has taken a number of steps in the past year and a half to strengthen our domestic preparedness  After the anthrax scares of last year, which hit particularly close to home in New Jersey, bioterrorism has become perhaps the most prominent homeland security threat.  New Jersey has become a national leader in bioterrorism response, with the following measures already taken statewide:

 


  Established the Medical Emergency and Disaster Preparedness and Response Expert Panel (MEDPREP) to enhance the State’s ability to respond to a bioterrorist attack. $40 million in federal and state funding has been allocated to implement this panel’s recommendation.

 Through a partnership with Becton Dickinson & Co., New Jersey became the first state to implement a system for tracking and managing smallpox vaccinations.

 New Jersey is the only state to implement a bioterrorism rapid response team that is ready 24 hours a day.

 New Jersey is the first state to introduce a two-way radio system interconnecting all of its acute care hospitals.

 

Measures are also underway to protect our critical infrastructure.  One area that is of particular interest to me is ensuring the security of water supply interconnections.  These are the pipes and transfer stations that bring water from aquifers and reservoirs to towns throughout the state.  Not only are these interconnections deteriorating because of disrepair, but many studies have shown them to be particularly vulnerable to attack through infrastructure sabotage and contamination.  Legislation that I am currently working on, the “Clean Water Drought Mitigation and Water Resource Security Trust”, will place a small user fee (three cents per one thousand gallons of water, or $2.40 per year for the average household) on water usage that will establish a trust fund dedicated to properly protecting these systems.

 

Furthermore, my colleagues in the State Assembly, Assemblymen Egan and Chivukula, and I are constantly working to secure state funding to assist 17th Legislative District municipalities better equip their own first-responders.  Piscataway Township has received $87,877 in grants from the Department of Law and Public Safety for various terrorism response items and mass casualty supplies.  The Borough of Highland Park was awarded $165,864 for defibrillators, communication equipment, and a new rescue truck.  New Brunswick also received $90,000 from the Department of Law and Public Safety for domestic preparedness equipment.  Finally, we helped Franklin Township secure a $175,000 grant to purchase a new digital radio communication system from the Statewide Local Domestic Preparedness Equipment Program. 

 

In short, while the threats to homeland security are at an all-time high, officials at all levels of government are working hard to minimize threats and prepare for any attack.  You can be confident that New Jersey is at the forefront of domestic security preparedness and a national leader in bioterrorism and infrastructure protection programs.  For more information about New Jersey’s homeland security programs, advice on how to prepare for an attack, and threat status alerts, visit www.state.nj.us/njhomelandsecurity and www.ready.gov. 

 

Bob Smith is a State Senator representing Piscataway, New Brunswick, Highland Park, Franklin Township, North Brunswick and Milltown.  He is a member of the Senate Environment and Judiciary Committees and has served as a member of the legislature since 1986.