Next steps: Public works and homeland security

Jake Arslanian
Public Facilities Manager
West Valley City, Utah
Member, APWA Emergency Management Committee
Chair, Homeland Security Subcommittee

The following acronyms are a part of the representation of where public works emergency management professionals are headed in today's new world.

  • DHS (Department of Homeland Security)
  • WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)
  • NIC (NIMS Integration Center)
  • NIMS (National Incident Management System)
  • NRP (National Response Plan)
  • ICS (Incident Command System)
  • ODP (Office of Domestic Preparedness)
  • HSPD-5 and HSPD-8 (Homeland Security Presidential Directives 5 & 8)

The direction of public works is changing and being redefined. The APWA Emergency Management Committee believes that this is a welcome change for our profession. Finally, the well-deserved recognition for the contributions of public works professionals in all aspects of preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery has arrived. Following the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, everyone handles their operation differently—from increased awareness programs to hazard analysis, mitigation, response and recovery. Today we must include terrorism and weapons of mass destruction in an all-hazards approach to our planning.

The events of September 11, 2001 also contributed to an environment where everyone can work, plan and perform much better as a team. First responders are no longer just fire and police. In Homeland Security Presidential Directive-8 the term "first responder" refers to "those individuals who in the early stages of an incident are responsible for the protection and preservation of life, property, evidence, and the environment, including emergency response providers as defined in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, as well as emergency management, public health, clinical care, public works, and other skilled support personnel (such as equipment operators) that provide immediate support services during prevention, response, and recovery operations."

As the role of first responders has been redefined, those of us in the public works industry must step up to the plate and ask ourselves if our departments and our personnel are trained and prepared. We must familiarize ourselves with this new role, the terminology, techniques, tools and training. To succeed in the future of homeland security and emergency management, public works professionals must include the following issues and actions:

  • Meet and learn to work with your state emergency management office. Federal dollars flow to this agency for disbursement to local governments. This office can also provide necessary training.
  • Familiarize all public works personnel with HSPD-5 and HSPD-8.
  • Train public works personnel on NIMS, ICS, and WMD.
  • Develop a public works curriculum for emergency management, including certification and education on how public works can be an active participant with other first responder groups.
  • Identify necessary homeland security resources, and develop a plan for funding these needs.
  • Understand and access grant funding programs. Public works will qualify for some resources and special equipment.
  • Promote an increased role, responsibility and interaction for public works in Incident Command and Emergency Operation Center operations.
  • Ensure that the role of public works is spelled out in your local emergency response plan.
  • Understand and implement the role of public works in NIMS and the NRP.

The West Valley City Public Works Department believes in training in all aspects of emergency management and homeland security. Here, the department conducts a WMD disaster training session.

Public works must develop a relationship with their State Emergency Management Office or the Office of Domestic Preparedness for local training needs. Excellent training is also available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). There are live courses and training exercises at the campus in Emmitsburg, MD, and online training through the National Emergency Training Center (NETC) virtual campus (see web address below). Your state Emergency Management Office and ODP may also have FEMA training courses available in your state.

Partnering with local colleges and universities is another essential component. Most colleges and universities in your state will offer training classes on subjects such as emergency management, NIMS, homeland security, and WMD. Frequently you can choose between live workshops, online or home study courses. The Utah Chapter of APWA has been involved with the State DPS, ODP and the DHS Education and Training Steering Committee to develop core instructor courses on various subjects within homeland security. It takes initiative and determination to get public works where it needs to be as a first responder.

The national APWA Emergency Management Committee and the Homeland Security Subcommittee are dedicated and committed to providing our members with the necessary tools and resources to prepare for and succeed in the first response community. The APWA Emergency Management website is under revision to provide you with information, the latest available training, where to get it, how to finance the training, and the tools to help you achieve your goal. Visit and watch for the changes as we prepare the latest news on homeland security issues for the public works community.

Web Resources

Jake Arslanian can be reached at (801) 963-3270 or at