THE MAGAZINE

State Perspective - Delaware

By Joseph Straw
 

Is your mission affected by the financial crisis? If so, how has the state adjusted?

 Delaware is no different than any other state. Right now we’re at a zero-based budget, which means we don’t have a lot of room to grow programs. We maintain the programs that we have and I think we have done that very effectively. We have a general assembly and a governor that are very, very supportive of the public safety mission, and they do everything in their power to make sure that we do have the resources that it takes. And in a perfect world we’d like to expand some of our programs. I do think we do fairly well in terms of identifying grants. Many of the local agencies in this state have done well on the Community Oriented Policing Services or COPS grant, getting some additional officers. Last year the State Police was the recipient of maritime grant that’s going to allow us for the first time to create a maritime unit. That’s very important to us. We have a lot of crucial infrastructure along our waterways. So I think we’re doing as well as we can.

To be quite candid I would like to see a shift in their risk analysis from the federal government. I think over time the feds have funded the major cities, and rightfully so. But if you do that year after year, I think we need to start to concentrate on some of the cities that haven’t received that level of funding. If you have a house and you have four doors, you don’t only lock three of them. We need to see a shift in how those limited grant opportunities are allocated. We have a very supportive congressional delegation, and they’ve been outstanding. But I think as a smaller state, to be somewhat parochial, I would like to see kind of a change in how they allocate funding, particularly on a year-to-year basis, and we certainly make that argument every chance we get.

 

What are some of the state’s major public-private partnerships?

There are a number of initiatives, and we’re looking to expand that every chance we get. Every time we give a talk or we appear at a group we ask for anybody who’s interested in signing up for the RISS-ATIX program to become participants in the DIAC dissemination, because it’s a two-way street. Not only do we look to disseminate information but we also look to receive information, particularly in terms of some of our industry partners. Our private sector partners are a great source of information themselves. In addition we also chair the state’s Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) committee, and our chemical firms provide expertise because in the event of a disaster because they would play a primary role in mitigation, of large chemical spills and those kinds of things. So it really is a good state to be in this business and it really is a two-way street.

On the other hand many of our firms are worldwide entities and they have access to some information that we don’t, so it really does become a true partnership. But again, we’re always looking for better ways to expand it and better ways to improve it. I think we have a rather robust group at our DIAC that is out there constantly looking at different infrastructure issues and trying to involve more people.

Our big initiative is really the notion of engaging all of our citizens in the “See something, say something” program. If you look at all of our utility workers that are out there, all of our different private concerns, the UPS drivers and the FedEx drivers, these are people that are out in our communities every day, so by engaging them and the community we serve, we can really increase the number of eyes and ears that are out there, and I think that is so very important.

 

Has the state reaped any significant lessons from recent responses or exercises?

In my time here the biggest events have been the snow storms. In my view many of these things you win or lose within the first few hours. You don’t get a do-over. So I guess the lessons-learned are to make sure you are prepared and know that often times there’s no second chance. I think that’s important, but we have a very good emergency management agency in the state, they do an incredible job in coordinating all of the resources and getting everybody on the same page. We have a governor that’s very responsive; he’s on top of it as these events unfold.

Our communication with the governor’s office is outstanding, and we’re able to react in a relatively short amount of time. There’s not a lot of bureaucracy involved in this and that’s a huge benefit. You can get things done and you can get them done fairly quickly, and that’s a huge benefit in terms of managing through critical events. We only have three counties in this state, and each one of those counties has its own emergency management groups. But our DEMA people have done an incredible job in coordinating not only the flow of information but the application of resources. We also have in this state, in my opinion, the finest National Guard bureau in the country, and its ability to deploy resources in a coordinated fashion in a relatively short amount of time is a great benefit. We’re constantly updating our procedures and protocols. We’d like to have more resources applied to that and we’re working on doing some of that, but I think overall we’ve done a fairly good job in managing through particularly the weather-related events that we’ve had.

 

What are your office’s major goals looking forward?

I think this year we’re going to look very hard at the issue of school security and schools safety plans throughout the state. I think if anybody can do that we can do this in the state of Delaware. We’re going to try to identify model schools safety plans and see if we can apply them across the board to every student in this state. I think that’s critical. We’re also going to look at a more efficient way of providing school safety and security resources to the schools. I think we can identify that and hopefully be able to do that. We’re going to also try to enhance our 911 system by applying a disabilities database, that is to say, if somebody dials 911 in the state of Delaware and that person has special needs, that we ought to be able to identify that so that our first responders can make the appropriate arrangements in order to be able to deliver services to them. And then also that is going to allow us, in the event of a natural disaster or other event, to identify those people in a geographic zone that may have special requirements in terms of evacuation and that kind of thing. We’re really excited about that.

Another initiative this year will be some kind of a more concentrated traffic enforcement in the state—being able to direct additional resources to that. We’re very concerned as all states are with aggressive driving and speeding. And if we can get more resources on the road we can cut down on some of the resources on our road and I think that would be a great thing to be able to do. Those are the things that we really face and would like to be able to identify and do a little bit more with.

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