It's midnight—do you know where your blueprints are?
Dwayne Kalynchuk, P.Eng.
I am sure we all remember where we were on that horrific day of September 11, 2001. I, along with several thousand of my public works colleagues, was attending our annual Congress in Philadelphia. However, on September 11, three of us from Alberta were going to play tourist and were heading into Manhattan to see the sights and hear the sounds of New York City. We were on the subway system from Trenton, New Jersey at 9:15 a.m. when we received our first message that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We arrived at Newark at 10:00 a.m., witnessed both towers on fire and watched in horror as the first tower collapsed. During this ordeal, my colleague commented that this event would change the world. While I did not comprehend the magnitude of his statement at the time, there is no doubt that the world has changed dramatically since then.
Today we live in a world where personal security is no longer so personal. By necessity, it has become inextricably linked to the security of all the cities and infrastructure of our homeland. All of us have had to think and do business differently in our professions since September 11. Last October, for example, I attended the annual conference of APWA's North Carolina Chapter in Wilmington. One of the session speakers talked about a traditional bidding process most public works agencies use for buildings and other assets. It is not uncommon for agencies to produce numerous sets of the design plans, and either provides them free or at a minimal cost to business contractors and subcontractors who are interested in bidding on the job. The only incentive for the bidder to return the plans was possibly a refundable deposit.
However, it goes without saying that numerous copies of these plans were thrown out without regard to their value to the security of our communities. When you stop to consider that these projects often represent the critical infrastructure of our nation—the water and sewer systems, the public buildings, and transportation and transit systems—you begin to realize how vulnerable and comfortable our freedom has allowed us to become. There is no doubt that access to this information by inappropriate individuals could threaten our homeland. The presenter was making the point that we should be as diligent about knowing where our blueprints are as we are about knowing where our children are. Their future may depend on it.
APWA has been working diligently to assure that the role and needs of public works officials are not forgotten. Our government affairs staff in our Washington office is working with both Congress and the Administration to provide adequate funding, training, and support for public works officials across the country.
The Department of Homeland Security, now a consolidation of 22 federal agencies, has called on APWA and its members to assist in the protection of the nation's critical infrastructure. And, a recent Presidential Directive (HSPD-8) names public works as a "first responder" in the initial stages of response to a terrorist attack or other emergency. Legislation percolating in the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Homeland Security names public works officials to a national Advisory Board tasked with developing national preparedness standards.
To meet these challenges, APWA has many members contributing to the national dialogue. Past President Judith Mueller was appointed to President Bush's Homeland Security Advisory Council, serving on the National Emergency Services, Law Enforcement, and Public Health and Hospitals Senior Advisory Committee. Our Emergency Management Committee Chair Brian Usher presented testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management and on pre-disaster mitigation and the hazard mitigation grant program funding. Board member Larry Lux is representing public works as we work with the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) to develop common priorities and suggestions for a national strategy for homeland security. Emergency Management Committee member Chris Yarnell is also working with NEMA to develop a model mutual aid agreement to assure that our communities have all the necessary resources available to them in case of attack and to assure that they are reimbursed for their efforts (DHS requires formal mutual aid agreements in order to receive reimbursements). In another milestone, DHS called APWA before changing the nation's alert status from yellow to orange to give us advance notice of the threat elevation.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. In Congress, we have been meeting with members of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security to educate them of our role in preparedness response and recovery from a terrorist attack. Emergency Management Committee member MaryAnn Marrocolo recently briefed several key Congressional staffers about the role of public works officials during the attack on the World Trade Center. And, in November, board member Howard LeFever and I met with members of Congress to highlight the need for adequate funding for the training, equipment and other resources needed to outfit public works officials for their responsibilities.
We still have work to do. Although the Administration has recognized us as "first responders," legislation on Capitol Hill falls a bit short. And, currently there are no funding streams or grants specifically for public works. We are working to change that. And to make sure that public works is not omitted from any of these opportunities.
It is also heartening to see that in Canada a Homeland Security Cabinet has been formed with the recent changes in government from the new Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. A new Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is designed to be a counterpart to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Like its U.S. predecessor, the Canadian agency will include the nation's Coast Guard and will have border-policing responsibilities, including managing customs agents and immigration inspectors at border posts and policing ports and airports. It will also have some responsibility for public health and emergency response. The new department will also include the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service. The Canadian Public Works Association has on their agenda for 2004, dialogue with the new department as to what role we as public works officials can play within the Canadian agency.
Yes, our world has changed dramatically both on a personal and business level since 9/11. We at APWA are here to provide help and guidance with these issues within our profession.