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Defining the role of the environmental health profession in homeland security.

A Definition of Homeland Security

The concept of homeland security conjures up visions of securing our homeland--your home, my home, everyone's home--by preparing and organizing the population to prevent and respond in both man-made and natural disasters and crises. The main concern with respect to manmade disasters is terrorism. The long-term goal for homeland security is to increase the ability of the population to prepare, prevent, and respond to terrorist attacks and other emergencies.


Following the attack of terrorists on this country on September 11, 2001--the destruction of the World Trade Center, the damage to the Pentagon, and the airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania--lawmakers enacted the Department of Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-296). Section 1502 of the act required submission of plans for a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including transfer of agencies, personnel, assets, and obligations to the new DHS.

DHS Organizational Structure

The Department of Homeland Security leverages resources within federal, state, and local governments to coordinate the transition of approximately 22 agencies and programs into a single, integrated agency focused on protecting the American people and their homeland. More than 87,000 governmental jurisdictions at the federal, state, and local levels have homeland security responsibilities. The comprehensive national strategy seeks to develop a complementary system connecting all levels of government without duplicating effort. Homeland Security has been termed a truly national mission. The current DHS structure comprises

* directorates and their components:

-- Directorate for Preparedness,

-- Directorate for Science and Technology,

-- Directorate for Management,

-- Office of Intelligence and Analysis,

-- Office of Operations Coordination,

-- Office of Policy,

-- Domestic Nuclear Detection Office,

-- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),

-- Transportation Security Administration (TSA),

-- Customs and Borders,

-- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),

-- Federal Law Enforcement Training Center,

-- Citizenship and Immigration Services,

-- U.S. Coast Guard, and

-- U.S. Secret Service;

* the Office of the Secretary:

-- Privacy Office,

-- Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties,

-- Office of Inspector General,

-- Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman,

-- Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs,

-- Office of the General Counsel,

-- Office of Counter-Narcotics Enforcement, and

-- Office of Public Affairs;

* advisory panels and committees:

-- Homeland Security Advisory Council,

-- National Infrastructure Advisory Council, and

-- Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities.

The DHS Six-Point Agenda

The Department of Homeland Security has published a six-point agenda to ensure that DHS policies, operations, and structures are aligned to address the threats--both present and future--that face the nation. The six-point agenda will guide the department in changes to

1. increase overall preparedness, particularly for catastrophic events;

2. create better transportation security systems to move people and cargo more securely and efficiently;

3. strengthen border security and interior enforcement and reform immigration processes;

4. enhance information sharing;

5. improve DHS financial management, human resource development, procurement, and information technology; and

6. align the DHS organization to maximize mission performance.

Emergencies and Disasters

In the event of a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or some other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This responsibility entails providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. DHS has prioritized the critical issue of citizen preparedness and is educating Americans on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and on how to respond in a crisis.

The mission of DHS includes preparing for natural disasters and terrorist attacks through preventive planning, technology, and coordinated efforts. In the event of a natural or manmade disaster, DHS will be the first federal department to utilize a full range of state, local, and private partnerships to alleviate potential effects.

DHS efforts for planning and preparedness include:

* first responder training;

* Citizens Emergency Response Training (CERT);

* homeland security grants;

* assistance to firefighters grants;

* terrorism, preparedness, and all-hazards grants;

* National Response Plan--Response & Recovery;

* Disability Preparedness Resource Center;

* National Incident Management System (NIMS), which provides standardized incident management processes, protocols, and procedures for coordinating and conducting response actions;

* state homeland security and emergency services; and

* key steps that individuals and families need to take to be properly prepared for unexpected emergencies.

Training for Emergency Preparedness and Response

The professional first responders of this nation put themselves on the line every day to protect and help their communities; however, in large-scale disasters the "pros" may find their human and other resources spread thin or exhausted. DHS addresses this scenario by providing resources and training both for professional first responders and for citizen volunteers. The resources are listed below.

Training Programs

* ODP Training and National Domestic Preparedness Consortium: direct training for state and local jurisdictions to help them enhance capacity and preparedness.

* The National Center for State and Local Law Enforcement Training: up-to-date, low- or no-cost training opportunities for state and local law enforcement officers.

* Compendium of Federal Terrorism Training for State and Local Audiences: searchable online database for terrorism training information.

* Emergency Education Network: First-responder-information programming schedule.

* The National Fire Academy: Training and educational opportunities for members of fire services and emergency services and allied professionals.

* Noble Training Center: hospital-based medical training in disaster preparedness and response.

* The Emergency Management Institute: training to ensure that organizations and individuals work together effectively in disasters and emergencies.

Information Resources

* National Incident Management System Integration Center: information, guidance, and resources to assist state, local, tribal, and federal agencies in adopting and implementing the National Incident Management System.

* National Incident Management System (NIMS): online-training introduction to the purpose, principles, key components, and benefits of NIMS.

* Comprehensive HazMat Emergency Response Capability Assessment Program (CHER-CAP): resource to prepare for hazardous materials incidents.

* Emergency Management Exercise Reporting System: system that helps emergency managers track and access exercises.

* National Exercise Program: training, exercises, and collaboration among partners at all levels.

* Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program: threat-based and performance-based exercise activities of varying degrees of complexity and interaction.

* Lessons Learned Information Sharing: best practices and lessons learned from actual terrorist events and training exercises.

* U.S. Fire Administration Publications: free publications for emergency responders, including manuals, reports, and incident reports.

* Responder Equipment Knowledge Base: trusted, integrated, online source of information on equipment and related items.

* State Homeland Security and Emergency Services Directory: the DHS online directory for homeland security and emergency services resources, by state.

* Homeland Security Information Network: DHS computer-based counterterrorism communications network.

* a consolidated Web source of disaster-related information and services (

* National Fire Department Census Data: the U.S. Fire Administration's online directory of fire department data and contact information.

* Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER): wide range of information on hazardous substances encountered in hazardous material incidents.

* ODP Emergency Responder Guidelines: baseline information for the response community on the training necessary to effectively and safely respond to an act of terrorism involving the use of weapons of mass destruction.

* RapidCom 9/30 and Interoperability Progress: designed to enhance crisis communications capability and enable first responders to communicate with each other in the event of a large emergency incident like a terrorist attack. The inability of emergency workers to communicate is a longstanding problem that contributed to the tragedy of September 11 and was repeated during the several hurricanes that occurred in the fall of 2005.

* Ready.Gov: citizen preparedness resources to aid Americans in preparing for the unexpected (

* Protected Critical Infrastructure Information (PCII): designed to encourage private industry to voluntarily share sensitive and proprietary business information with DHS according to the requirements of the Critical Infrastructure Information Act of 2002.

* Metropolitan Medical Response System Program: established to develop or enhance existing emergency preparedness systems.

Environmental Health: Protecting Communities During Disaster

Protecting America's communities is a top priority of the Department of Homeland Security. This priority goes hand in hand with the basic mission of the environmental health profession: to protect public health and safety. Communities are on the front line in the battle to secure the nation from man-made and natural disasters. Environmental health professionals and agencies are mission-critical resources in prevention-based preparation and response to these disasters. Sanitation, infection control, air and water quality, communicable-disease prevention, personal and occupational safety, hazard recognition, risk mitigation, crowd and animal control, solid and hazardous waste, food protection, and other environmental health and safety skills--yes, all the skills environmental health professionals use every day--are mission critical when communities are preparing for and responding to disasters.

See the sidebar on pages 42 and 43 for information on homeland security education and training opportunities.

Uniting Communities to Prepare the Nation

The formula for ensuring a safe and secure homeland consists of preparedness, training, and citizen involvement in support of first responders. Following the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001, state and local government officials have increased opportunities for citizens to become an integral part of protecting the homeland and supporting the local first responders. In January 2002, President George W. Bush launched the USA Freedom Corps to capture the spirit of service that has emerged throughout American communities following the terrorist attacks.

Citizen Corps (, a vital component of the USA Freedom Corps, was created to help coordinate volunteer activities that will make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to any emergency situation. It provides opportunities for individuals to participate in a range of measures to make their families, their homes, and their communities safer from the threats of crime, terrorism, and disasters of all kinds. Citizen Corps programs build on the successful efforts already in place in many communities around the country to prevent crime and respond to emergencies. Programs that started through local innovation are the foundation for Citizen Corps and this national approach to citizen participation in community safety. The Department of Homeland Security coordinates Citizen Corps nationally and works closely with other federal entities, state and local governments, first responders, emergency managers, the volunteer community, and the White House Office of the USA Freedom Corps.

The events of September 11, 2001, as well as the recurring reminders delivered by the powerful forces of natural phenomena, have made citizens aware of their vulnerabilities, more appreciative of their freedoms, and more understanding that they--both private individuals and environmental health professionals--have a responsibility for the safety of families, neighbors, communities, and the nation. But they also know that they can take action now to help protect their families, help reduce the impact an emergency has on their lives, and help deal with the chaos if an incident does occur. Citizen Corps training programs are available for individuals, community groups, businesses, and employers. Environmental health professionals will greatly benefit from participating in these educational efforts both as learners and as instructors. Citizen Corps training programs offer the following opportunities:

* Citizen Corps Councils: These organizations help drive local citizen participation by coordinating Citizen Corps programs, developing community action plans, assessing possible threats, and identifying local resources (

* The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT): This program educates people about disaster preparedness and trains them in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search-and-rescue, and disaster medical operations. Using their training, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhoods or workplaces following an event, support first responders, and take a more active role in preparing their communities (

* The Fire Corps: The Fire Corps promotes the use of citizen advocates to enhance the capacity of resource-constrained fire and rescue departments at all levels: volunteer, combination, and career level personnel. Citizen advocates can assist local fire departments in a range of activities including fire safety outreach, youth programs, and administrative support. The Fire Corps provides resources to assist fire and rescue departments in creating opportunities for citizen advocates and promotes citizen participation. It is funded through DHS and implemented through a partnership between the National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Fire Fighters, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (

* Neighborhood Watch Program (NWP): This program has incorporated terrorism awareness education into its existing crime prevention mission, while also serving as a mechanism for bringing residents together to focus on emergency preparedness and emergency response training. NWP is funded by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and administered by the National Sheriffs' Association (

* The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Program: The MRC strengthens communities by helping medical, public health, and other volunteers offer their expertise throughout the year as well as during local emergencies and other times of community need. MRC volunteers work in coordination with existing local emergency response programs and supplement existing community public health initiatives, such as outreach and prevention, immunization programs, blood drives, case management, care planning, and other efforts. The MRC program is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (

* Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS): The goal of this program is to enhance the ability of state and local law enforcement to utilize volunteers. VIPS serves as a gateway to resources and information for and about law enforcement volunteer programs. It is funded by DOJ and managed and implemented by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (

* The Citizen Corps Affiliate Program: This program expands the resources and materials available to states and local communities by offering resources for public education, outreach, and training. It also represents volunteers interested in helping to make their community safer and offers volunteer-service opportunities to support first responders, disaster relief activities, and community safety efforts (

The Department of Homeland Security coordinates Citizen Corps nationally DHS also works closely with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to promote volunteer service activities that support homeland security and community safety CNCS is a federal agency that operates national service programs such as AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America. Participants in these programs may support Citizen Corps Council activities by helping to establish training and information delivery systems for neighborhoods, schools, and businesses, and by helping with family preparedness and crime prevention initiatives in a community or across a region.

What Can Environmental Health Professionals Do?

Years ago, Dr. Monroe T. Morgan defined environmental health as "the first line of defense against disease" and taught that environmental health constitutes the basis of primary preventive medicine. Prevention requires planning and preparation. Thus, being prepared is consistent with the mission and goals of the environmental health profession.

Preparation makes sense--get ready now! Securing our safety and freedom requires that we all work together. Every individual, profession, and organization has a critical role to play. Environmental health professionals are a repository of mission-critical skills and knowledge about protecting the public health and safety in times of crisis and disaster.

What can environmental health professionals do to help? Volunteer now for Citizen Corps and other programs. Train yourselves, your families, your agencies, your staff, and your visitors and associates. There's a role for everyone and an application for every skill.

Had enough training yourself? Then teach your skills and knowledge to others. Speak out in your communities about the vast range of dynamic and diverse skills that the environmental health profession has to offer in disaster preparation and response. Seek grant funding to teach the principles and techniques of environmental health to your local first responders. Consider incorporating threat risk assessment, security vulnerability assessment, and WMD awareness into your established environmental health inspections and evaluations.

Corresponding Author: David C. Breeding, Manager, Office of Engineering Safety, Environmental Health, Safety & Security Services, Texas A & M University, Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and the Dwight Look College of Engineering, 3126 TAMUS, College Station, TX 77843-3126. E-mail:

David C. Breeding, R.S., R.E.H.S., R.P.E., C.S.P.


Want To Go Even Further? Examples of Higher-Education Opportunities in Homeland Security in Texas

Check out what's available in your community: Increasingly colleges and universities are offering education programs, courses, and degrees in homeland security and related areas. Check out your local colleges and universities. In Texas, Texas A & M University (TAMU) and its components have implemented several higher education programs, which are described below.

Environmental Hazard Management (EHM), Graduate Certificate:

The TAMU EHM graduate certificate provides students with an understanding of extreme events in the natural environment. The courses provide a basic understanding of both natural and technological hazards, and the implications of disaster research for policy formulation and implementation at the community, regional, state, federal, and international levels.

Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security (CHLS):

The TAMU George Bush School for Government & Public Service offers the CHLS to cover the theory practice, challenges, and prospects for securing the "American Homeland" against terrorist attack and is intended for the next generation of national, state, community and business leaders who need to understand the new security environment as part of their management and leadership duties.

Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center (HHRC):

The TAMU College of Architecture HRRC conducts research in hazard analysis, emergency preparedness and response, disaster recovery, and hazard mitigation. It is one of only two U.N. Collaborative Centers in the world. HRRC also provides graduate degree programs and opportunities for careers in emergency management, hazard planning, and disaster research.

Mary Kay O'Conner Process Safety Center (MKOPSC):

Contact: Dr. Sam Mannan, C.S.P.

MKOPSM conducts research and develops education programs in process safety, risk management, crisis management, and emergency preparedness and response. Its services include accident investigation and analysis services, particularly for accidents suggesting new phenomena or complex technologies. The institute also helps private and public enterprises evaluate and minimize risk.

National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (FAZD):

FAZD is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security University Center of Excellence. It addresses the range of threats presented by introduced foreign animals, zoonotic diseases, and animal-related terrorist acts.

Homeland Security National Emergency Response & Rescue Training Center (NERRTC):

This program of the Texas Engineering Extension Service provides emergency responders and the nation's jurisdictions with state-of-the-art, hands-on, scenario-driven WMD training and exercises to prepare for and reduce the risk of terrorist attacks.

System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders (SAVER) Program:

Contact Christina Robertson, C.I.H.

The Department of Homeland Security established this program in conjunction with the Texas Center for Applied Technology (TEES). The SAVER Program provides information on equipment, systems, and technology to the responder community, including handbooks, technical notes and reports, equipment guides, assessment reports, and highlights.

Engineering Homeland Security Research Programs:

The TAMU Engineering Program leads homeland security efforts focused on engineering research and applications that assist in protecting people, saving lives, and securing the United States from attack and disasters.

Integrative Center for Homeland Security:

Contact: Dr. David H. McIntyre, director

The TAMU Integrative Center for Homeland Security explores the entire range of homeland security activities, identifies educational, research, and outreach needs, and helps match them against the many world-class capabilities of the TAMU System.

Texas Training Initiative for Emergency Response (T-TIER):

Contact: Dr. Barbara Quiram, Director of Emergency Preparedness

The TAMU School of Rural Public Health (SRPH), in partnership with NERRTC, hosts T-TIER, a continuing-education program that offers training to individuals with responsibility for bioterrorism preparedness and response. Trainees gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities they need to plan for, respond to, and deploy effectively after terrorist acts, infectious-disease outbreaks, and other public health threats and emergencies.

Texas Transportation Institute (TTI):

Through the TAMU Engineering Program, TTI conducts homeland security research in coastal evacuation planning, port security, environmental management, and water quality.

Other Helpful Sources and Resources:

* National Strategy for Homeland Security (Whitehouse Office of Homeland Security) (;

* U.S. Department of Homeland Security (; and

* 30 Tips for Emergency Preparedness (U.S. Department of Homeland Security) (
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Guest Commentary
Author:Breeding, David C.
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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