City officials disclosed Thursday some of the measures New Haven has taken to bolster domestic security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including the purchase of a mass decontamination unit, gas masks and a hazardous devices unit.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. joined fire chief Michael Grant, police chief Francisco Ortiz, and Bill Quinn, director of the New Haven Department of Health, at a press conference on Long Wharf to discuss city security and display some of the technological improvements. The city plans to add to its repertoire of security devices if the state releases funds set aside by the Homeland Security Act.
In order to make these purchases practicable, DeStefano, Grant and Ortiz all emphasized new methods of interoperability between essential service departments. DeStefano spearheaded the creation of the Emergency Planning and Preparedness Committee, whose members include the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the New Haven Police and Fire departments. The Police Department and Fire Department have been collaborating for some time already.
“We meet regularly with all our partners,” Ortiz said. “These are real meetings where we come up with actions and plans.”
Grant said the committee has allowed uniformed men and women to develop a professional and personal relationship, which he said helps expedite some of the difficult tasks at hand.
The first true test of the new system came unexpectedly in May, when Yale’s Sterling Law Building was bombed several days before Commencement.
“The response to the Yale Law School bombing this year was terrific,” DeStefano said.
Grant echoed DeStefano’s praise.
“That was a great example of people working together to resolve an incident,” Grant said.
The city is currently expecting several new additions to its homeland security system, including a second dog to complement Spanky, the city’s bomb-sniffing labrador retriever. The state has also used homeland security funds to purchase a $150,000 bomb response unit for New Haven.
Despite these improvements, the city looks to continue to expand its capabilities, hoping that the state will filter down more funds from the Homeland Security Act, which allocated $5.5 to $6 billion to states. The city has received only approximately $500,000, although its documented need is slightly larger than $3 million.
The city thus far has been forced to bear the brunt of the burden for the technological improvements, DeStefano said. Ortiz, however, assuaged fears that the city was drawing valuable assets away from local neighborhoods.
“We have redirected resources in New Haven, but we have not compromised the safety of our communities,” he said.
Regardless, city officials were optimistic about New Haven’s ability to respond quickly and efficiently to a multitude of circumstances.
“If we had a smallpox incident in New Haven today, we would be ready to set up clinics,” Quinn said. “New Haven is ready, and it will be even more ready as we go on.”
At the end of the month the city plans to distribute pamphlets to New Haven residents with information on how to prepare for possible emergencies.