D.C.-Area Officials Promise Closer Relationship on Emergency Preparedness

Posted April 10, 2003 at 1:23pm

Security agencies throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia have pledged to work together closely to ensure a safe living and working environment for those in the nation’s capital, several regional officials testified Thursday.

“If we’re going to be prepared, we must be coordinated on all levels,” Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) told the House Government Reform Committee.

Warner, along with D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D), participated in a series of three panels addressing the state of emergency readiness in the region.

Williams laid out a set of eight commitments to action regarding emergency preparedness in the Washington area. Some of these include terrorism prevention, media relations and communication, mutual aid, and citizen involvement.

But even though officials are pledging to work together, some Members said recent incidents impairing residents from driving to and from work reflect a need for major improvement.

Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.), for example, referred to last month’s standoff with a disgruntled tobacco farmer who drove a tractor into a pond on the Mall.

“This lack of productivity represents a significant economic impact, and it’s unacceptable.” Davis said. “If local and federal law-enforcement officials are not able to handle congestion problems created by one man, how will they handle an evacuation necessitated by a terrorist attack?”

However, Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey was expected to testify in the afternoon that law-enforcement agencies in the region are better prepared than ever before for a large-scale emergency.

“I base that assertion not on wishful thinking or over-optimistic reports from other people,” Ramsey wrote in a prepared statement. “I base it on my own personal involvement with the emergency preparedness process over the past 19 months.”