Chertoff: Planning for disaster requires everyone
Q: Mr. Secretary, it's Wilson Dizard with Government Computer News. I'd like to ask you about your department's efforts to perhaps encourage the federal government and other levels of government to review their so-called continuity of operation, continuity of government plans, especially with regard to their information technology that would be instrumental in developing all kinds of delivering all kinds of services to the public.
CHERTOFF: A critical part of the planning we're doing now with respect to the possibility of a pandemic is in fact making sure government agencies have reviewed and our strengthening their continuity of operation plans. Part of that means identifying essential workers, and also figuring out who could work from home. And obviously the ability to do that depends on the availability of a significant IT structure and the ability to have people do some of their work using home computers.
So clearly, we have to make sure we have our own house in order. We're doing that internally at DHS. The other departments are doing that as well. And I think the private sector also has to be encouraged.
You know, if we have a limited amount of vaccine for a particular type of pandemic, we're going to have to figure out who has to come to work in order to perform essential services, who can work from home performing essential services, and who maybe doesn't need to work because it's not essential and ought to stay home during a period where there's a particularly intense concern about communicability of diseases.
So one of the things to think about in advance is how much we can use models like telecommuting as a way of having business COOP plans as well as government COOP plans.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Art Kellerman, Emory University. Thank you for coming today.
A great deal of money and time and effort has been put into preparing for bioterrorism. But if you look around the world, the terrorists' method of choice is explosives, conventional weapons the calling card of al Qaeda Madrid, London, and other cities.
But at the federal level we've pretty much zeroed out funding for trauma systems, planning and development and trauma centers. How prepared do you think we are as a country to handle the threat of conventional weapons such as what happened in Tel Aviv yesterday?
CHERTOFF: You know, I think the answer is that one thing that we actually have a lot of experience in is explosions. We've had those over the years. Sometimes they're a consequence of an accident. But I don't think that the notion of a bomb going off I mean, we went through the first World Trade Center in 1993. That cost some loss of life. We went through that system.
I mean, frankly, what the government has done is try to focus on those areas where we need to raise the level up to an adequate level as quickly as possible. And one of the areas I think that we were quite far behind in and we spent a lot of effort trying to get up to speed in is the biological area, precisely because, as the anthrax attacks of 2001 showed, we didn't necessarily have a lot of experience in that, and it was important to start to get into place the kinds of tools that would allow us to respond to an event that could be catastrophic in consequence.