Orange County’s Homeland Security

Prior to my arrival at the Board of Supervisors, the County developed a comprehensive emergency response and resource allocation plan designed primarily to respond to civil unrest, wild lands fires, hazmat incidents, urban flooding and weapons of mass destruction incidents. These plans guided our actions in the immediate response to the acts of terrorism against America on September 11.

The September 11 attacks highlighted critical gaps in funding, as well as the abilities of both the public and private sectors at the federal, state, and local levels to anticipate and coordinate an effective response to attacks on our Nation’s homeland by international terrorists. In response, immediate actions were taken at all levels of the County. A universal, strategic counter-terrorism plan including Orange County’s participation in the national anti-terrorism mutual aid structure was developed and implemented. The plan was designed to ensure the needs of Orange County residents, as well as the business community, were met while still complementing and supporting the National Homeland Security Doctrine.

As a result of many years of cooperative effort among the public safety leaders of Orange County, I am proud to support the continued funding of various programs that form Orange County’s Homeland Security Strategy. This strategy coordinates a comprehensive effort to allocate resources, educate the public, train professionals and volunteers as well as respond to threats against County residents and infrastructure.

One program is the Terrorism Working Group formed to address first responder safety issues, incident management and public health consequences of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) incidents that result from acts of terrorism. The Terrorism Working Group membership consists of law enforcement, fire agencies, HazMat, Public Health, Emergency Medical Services, the F.B.I., Bomb squads, hospitals, ambulance providers, vector control, animal control, coroner, and volunteer law enforcement advisory components. There are four subcommittees with specific mission areas. The training/equipment subcommittee provides training information to public service entities countywide, reviews existing equipment inventory, develops standards for future equipment, and identifies grant opportunities. This subcommittee obtained and is in the process of distributing 1,200 personal protective suits to law and fire first responders in the County and has also been able to enhance the response capability of the County’s Bomb Squad through the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment. (Appendix E)

Another program is the Terrorism Early Warning Group (TEWG). The Terrorism Early Warning Group is a multi-disciplinary subcommittee to the Terrorism Working Group designed to obtain and analyze information and intelligence needed to formulate an effective response to threats and acts of terrorism. As part of the Terrorism Early Warning Group mission, a threat and vulnerability assessment of potential terrorist targets in Orange County. After September 11th, the Orange County Terrorism Early Warning Group became fully integrated into the national mutual aid structure increasing the number of agency participants.

One additional program I believe is worthy of noting is the Private Sector Terrorism Response Group (PSTRG) formed by the Sheriff shortly after September 11, 2001, to create a private sector partnership with the Terrorism Early Warning Group to effectively address private sector safety, incident management, employee education and public health consequences of potential terrorist attacks on the critical infrastructure within Orange County. Along with independent employers, three large groups involved with the Private Sector Terrorism Response Group are the Orange County Business Council; Technet, a consortium of 28 high tech firms; and the Orange County Forum for Corporate Directors. The objectives include physical resource sharing, information exchange, virtual reach-back capabilities, and subject/industry matter expert cross-utilization. Orange County businesses employ over 1.4 million residents. This is an instrument which allows our Sheriff to maximize all resources and prepare community members for the potentiality of terrorism and recovery in its aftermath.

Lastly, as a part of maintaining preparedness, I’ll mention the Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force (OCJTTF). Immediately after the attack on America, the Sheriff brought together the Orange County Chiefs of Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Department of Justice to discuss the formation of a Joint Terrorism Task Force. As a result, 20 police agencies joined with five State and Federal agencies to comprise the FBI-led Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Orange County has consistently led the nation in performing innovative exercises to test emergency preparedness for both natural and man-caused disasters. Annual drills are held involving the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, wild fires, urban floods, earthquakes and civil unrest to assess the viability of emergency plans and operational directives. Continuation and expansion of exercises allows evaluation of response capabilities and identify resource needs through formal grading (FEMA) or after-action review.