March 22, 2011
QUESTIONS FOR EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AND HOMELAND SECURITY COMMISSIONER NOMINEE
By: Veronica Rose, Chief Analyst
The Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) commissioner is responsible for providing a coordinated, integrated program for statewide emergency management and homeland security. The commissioner must coordinate with state and local government agencies and private-sector groups to ensure that they receive adequate planning, equipment, and training; coordinate and, where necessary, consolidate homeland security communications in the state; distribute information and security warnings; and establish standards and security protocols for intelligence information (CGS § 28-1a).
1. What is DEMHS' focus? Is it detection, preparedness, prevention, response and recovery, or incident management?
2. Describe the role that DEMHS has been playing in leading emergency preparedness efforts. Has it been more effective in leading at the local or state level? Describe the department's approach to coordinating activities among (1) state departments and (2) intergovernmental agencies.
3. Is there a state that is considered a model or leader in terms of its homeland security and emergency operations? How does Connecticut rank nationally in terms of its ability to deliver homeland security and emergency management services? Are there best practices Connecticut should adopt?
4. The governor has proposed merging DEMHS with the Department of Public Safety (DPS). What is the best case one can make for keeping DEMHS as a separate agency? What functions do you believe that a standalone homeland security agency can perform better than one within DPS?
5. What are the benefits of a merger? Do you anticipate problems with implementing the merger if the bill passes? How would you address them?
6. How do you view your renomination as commissioner in light of the proposed merger?
7. The Kleen Energy power plant blast illustrated the tension that arises when several agencies with seemingly overlapping jurisdictions have to work together. What were DEMHS' and DPS' roles in the aftermath of the explosion? How would the merger improve the level of communication and avoid unnecessary duplication or confusion in response to a catastrophic event?
8. What percentage of DEMHS' budget comes from federal funding? Does the federal government stipulate how DEMHS can spend federal funds? How would the merger affect homeland security and related federal grants to the state?
9. Can you comment on reports that the merger could result in the loss or temporary halt in federal homeland security funds and the effect this would have on municipal projects that are about to enter their second grant cycle?
10. Is DEMHS getting adequate funding to meet state, local, and federal public safety goals? What would you consider an optimum level of funding?
11. What is the current state of disaster preparedness in Connecticut? In what areas is the state most prepared for a catastrophic event and why? In what areas is it least prepared and why? How prepared is the state to deal with a major disaster, such as the earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan?
12. In light of the earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan, what are the critical questions we should be asking about the Millstone nuclear power plant? Just how safe is the plant? What magnitude earthquake was it built to withstand? What category hurricane could it withstand? Does the crisis in Japan warrant any changes in the way we monitor or operate the plant?
13. A natural or manmade disaster at the Millstone plant could potentially force the evacuation of thousands of residents. In the event of a forced evacuation, is the state's infrastructure capable of handling thousands of vehicles and people? What is the department doing to ensure the safety of the plant and people who live nearby in case of a major disaster?
14. What are Connecticut's security needs and goals? How prepared is the state to deal with terrorism, including cyber-terrorism? To what extent is terrorism a threat in Connecticut?
15. On average, how many emergencies does DEMHS manage or respond to annually? What is the biggest emergency it responded to in the last five years? What role, if any, did DEMHS play in providing services to areas affected by last winter's snowstorms?