Guest Commentary by Michael Carona, Orange County Sheriff
Orange County's Response to TerrorismBy: Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona
Sheriff Carona offers Orange County's best practices as examples of ways regional law enforcement units can help fight the war against terrorism.
Prior to September 11, 2001, the Orange County Sheriff's Department was preparing for what was then considered "the unlikely event of a terrorist attack." Sadly, one single day forever changed our perspective on terrorism.
If we learned anything from the rubble of the World Trade Center, it is that we must never leave one single stone unturned in our efforts to combat terrorism. At one time, the idea of using airplanes as flying bombs was inconceivable. On the morning of September 11, such a nightmare became our reality.
Extremists and terrorists will never quit until they are able to accomplish their goals; therefore, it is up to all of us to develop the partnerships and plans we need to ensure we can stop those who wish to do us harm well before they accomplish their mission.
In our commitment to ensure the safety and well being of the people we serve, the Orange County Sheriff's Department has identified several areas to serve in advisory notification, investigation, and analysis of terrorist events and activities. A few such roles are noted below:
Terrorism Working Group (TWG): The TWG was formed in 1998 to address first responder safety issues, incident management and public health consequences of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) incidents that result from acts of terrorism. TWG membership consists of law enforcement, fire agencies, HazMat, Public/Environmental Health, Emergency Medical Services, the F.B.I., Bomb squads, hospitals, ambulance companies, vector control, animal control, coroner, and volunteer law enforcement advisory components.
Orange County Terrorism Early Warning Group (TEWG): The TEWG is a multi-disciplinary (law, health, fire) subcommittee of the Terrorism Working Group. It is designed to obtain and analyze information and intelligence needed to formulate an effective response to threats and acts of terrorism. As part of the TWEG mission, a threat and vulnerability assessment of potential terrorist targets in Orange County was developed in August 2001. After September 11th, the Orange County TEWG became fully integrated into the national mutual aid structure, thereby increasing the number of agency participants.
Orange County Private Sector Terrorism Response Group (PSTRG): The PSTRG was formed in December 2001 to create a private sector partnership with the TEWG to effectively address private sector safety, incident management, employee education and public health consequences of potential attacks on the critical infrastructure within Orange County. Two large groups involved with PSTRG are the Orange County Business Council, of which 80% of the major businesses in Orange County are members, and Technet, a consortium of 28 high tech firms. The objectives of the PSTRG include physical resource sharing, information exchange, virtual reach-back capabilities, and subject/industry matter experts cross-utilization. The PSTRG is an instrument which allows the Sheriff's Department to maximize all resources and prepare community members for the potential of terrorism and recovery in its aftermath.
Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force (OCJTTF): Immediately after the September 11, 2001, attacks on America, Sheriff Mike Carona, along with the Orange County Chiefs of Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Department of Justice met to discuss the formation of a Joint Terrorism Task Force. As a result, 20 police agencies joined with five State and Federal agencies to comprise the FBI-led Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force.
California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC): The purpose of CATIC is to serve as a statewide information clearinghouse accessible to law enforcement agencies engaged in counter-terrorism activities. Orange County law enforcement, the OCJTTF, and TEWG have integrated CATIC into the Homeland Security Strategy to increase their effectiveness in combating terrorism and thwarting terrorist acts within the state and county.
Law Enforcement Mutual Aid: Orange County law enforcement has long recognized the need for standardization and uniformity of organization and response on the part of public safety providers involved in major multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional incidents. The collaborative efforts of Orange County law enforcement leaders over the past 53 years have forged a collective voice in mutual assistance and mutual aid. All major components tasked with public safety (law, fire, health, emergency management) are actively involved in developing emergency plans and insuring emergency preparedness.
All of us at the Orange County Sheriff's Department are proud of the work we have done thus far. We remain committed to look for new opportunities and utilize experts throughout Orange County, the State of California and our nation to ensure we continue to leave no stone unturned.
However, a critical link in the war on terrorism is the collaborative partnership of many different sectors within our community. As always, we appreciate any input and have many volunteer opportunities available for members of the general public. If you are interested, please visit our website at www.ocsd.org.
Sheriff Carona began his law enforcement career in 1976 as a Deputy with the Orange County Marshall's Department. Elected as the eleventh Sheriff in the history of Orange County, Michael Carona was also the first in 56 years to come from outside the ranks. In January 1999, Michael Carona became responsible for the leading law enforcement agency in Orange County, the 2nd largest Sheriff's Department in California, and the 5th largest Sheriff's Department in the nation. His department is comprised of nearly 4200 members, with an operating budget of approximately $500 million.
In 2002 he was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the Emergency Response Senior Advisory Committee for the Homeland Security Council. Reporting to Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Sheriff Carona is one of only fifteen members from the United States and is the only Sheriff on the Committee.