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As bad as things have gotten with the shoddy play of the Kansas City Royals this past year, it would be hard to imagine things getting much worse at Kauffman Stadium. Contemplating that very thought however is what kept emergency planners busy throughout the state of Missouri one sun-shiny day in August.
The same day the Royals broke their previous record of ineptitude by losing their 18th game in a row, the state of Missouri staged a practice drill in which it was imagined that a “dirty bomb” with radioactive particles had been detonated at the stadium. In actuality, the worst blow struck was a grand slam off the bat of a Seattle Mariner infielder.
Emergency drills are becoming more and more common across the state. While some involve placing public health and safety personnel out in the community to engage in simulated activities, others, such as the Kauffman Stadium exercise, are limited to table-top reviews. Scenarios range from natural disasters to terrorist attacks.
It is the belief of Gov. Matt Blunt and his administration
that lessons learned in these exercises would make a big difference
in a real crisis by saving lives and minimizing property damage. Somewhat
surprisingly, in the time that Blunt has been governor, his reforms
in this area have received little public attention.
Just the opposite occurred at the national level when
the Federal Emergency Management Agency was absorbed into Homeland
Security under President Bush and lost the cabinet rank it previously
had. The flawed response to Hurricane Katrina shows the unintended
consequences that consolidation of governmental entities can have.
Further evidence of this is the statement issued by
Public Safety Department spokesperson Terri Durdaller following Chapman’s
resignation indicating there are “no immediate plans to search
for a replacement.” Department director Mark James is expected
to handle homeland security responsibilities himself for the foreseeable
The Blunt plan is expected to be more detailed in provisions dealing with the procurement and spending of homeland security funds. According to published reports, Missouri received nearly $50 million in homeland security grants from the federal government this year, which is about one-third less than was received in 2004.
Much of the money allocated to Missouri for homeland
security has been used for interoperable equipment designed to maintain
multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional communications in emergency
situations. Hurricane Katrina served as a grim reminder of what can
happen when this technology is either not present or not in working
Barry Speert is a freelance writer and radio and TV commentator. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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