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Terrorism: Frequently Asked Questions

On the 10-year anniversary of September 11, 2001...

Is the San Diego region more prepared than we were on Sept. 11, 2001?

  • Yes. We have a robust anti-terrorism program and significant improvements have been made in the past ten years.
  • The level of collaboration in our region is unique.  City, county, state, federal and private agencies in San Diego plan, train and exercise together as a region.
  • The goal is to help prevent and prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural and manmade disasters that could impact San Diego County.  More specifically, we’ve made the following improvements since Sept 11, 2001:

Law Enforcement Coordination Center (LECC)

  • At the LECC various agencies share terrorism intelligence and evaluate potential threats to our communities.
  • Local, state and federal law enforcement officers work together on multi-agency task forces such as the Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
  • This center has expanded our regional collaboration in fighting terrorism.

Training

San Diego County has developed a Regional Exercise Program which includes cross-training with all cities, law enforcement, state and military. The region conducts a major full scale regional exercise annually, as well as scores of other drills and exercises each year, all focused on improving our response coordination and capability.

Regional collaboration/shared resources

  • The region shares many law enforcement resources and safety and detection equipment purchased with homeland security grants.
  • San Diego County, law enforcement and fire officials manage a Critical Infrastructure Protection Program which seeks to identify critical sites or services in our region and mitigate potential threats to those sites.
  • The Unified Disaster Council (includes the Board of Supervisors chair and fire chiefs of all 18 cities) manages regional safety, planning and mitigation as well as the coordination of homeland security grants used to pay for  equipment and trainin.g
  • We have established a Civilian-Military Liaison Group that meets regularly to coordinate civilian and military readiness and preparedness within our region.
  • The ReadySanDiego Business Alliance contributes resources and senior expertise for planning, responding and recovering from a disaster.
  • Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program in which the public is trained in basic disaster response and urged to prepare their families for emergencies including terrorism.

How much has the region received in Homeland Security funds and what has it been used for?

The Region has received more than $162 million in Homeland Security since 2001 which have used for:

  • Training and planning for detection, decontamination and protective equipment for first responders
  • Interoperable technologies for communications systems such as the AlertSanDiego public notification system, networks and first responder equipment such as 800 MHz radios
  • Critical infrastructure protection
  • Citizen preparedness education and the implementation of additional Community Emergency Response Teams
  • Improvements to emergency management mutual aid and catastrophic event planning
  • Emergency operations center enhancements
  • Firefighting helicopter
  • Geospatial data

What can the public do to prepare for a terrorist attack?

  • Know the 8 signs of suspicious activity: Surveillance, Elicitation, Tests of Security, Funding, Acquiring Supplies, Impersonation, Rehearsal, and Deployment. Watch the video: www.readysandiego.org.
  • Since 9/11, many terrorist plots (including several in the United States by homegrown terrorists) have been hindered by ordinary citizens who notified authorities.
  • Create a family disaster plan, create and replenish a family disaster home kit, register with the County’s AlertSanDiego notification system, donate blood, and join a Community Emergency Response Team.
  • Business leaders can join the County’s ReadySanDiego Business Alliance, a coalition of businesses that work with public agencies to improve the safety and security of the region.

How do local, state and federal law enforcement coordinate to report and prevent terrorist activity?

  • County and city leaders coordinate, train and leverage emergency preparedness resources. The county and cities plan and manage Homeland Security grants for the region as part of the Unified Disaster Council.
  • Local government also trains and works with state and federal governments to manage large-scale disasters where additional resources may be needed for the region.
  • Various agencies (local, state and federal) at the Law Enforcement Coordination Center share terrorism intelligence and evaluate potential threats of terrorism.
  • The Law Enforcement Coordination Center has a network of Terrorism Liaison Officers (made up of public safety workers such as paramedics, border patrol, homeland security workers and emergency managers) who receive terrorism training, information and intelligence.

What is the terrorism threat level in San Diego?  Have there been any threats related to the anniversary of September 11?

  • While there is no specific threat, we still ask people to be vigilant and report suspicious activity.
  • There are a number of things that put the San Diego region at risk: the International Border, coastline and port, international airport and strong military presence.
  • Authorities are now less concerned about a major coordinated terrorist attack in the U.S. like the one that took place on 9/11 and more concerned about a “lone wolf” terror attack similar to what happened at Fort Hood, Texas.
  • The National Terrorism Advisory System is at a “heightened level of vigilance.”

Have you received tips from the public about terrorist activity and has it resulted in arrests?

  • Local law enforcement and the Law Enforcement Coordination Center has received credible tips in the past from citizens. We can’t discuss details due to their sensitive nature.
  • We encourage residents to report suspicious activity to their local law enforcement agency so that it can be investigated.

How can the public assess the threat level now that the color system is gone?

  • The National Terrorism Advisory System has replaced the color-coded Homeland Security threat level system. Under the new system, alerts will be issued if there is an imminent threat or elevated threat.
  • The alerts will provide a summary of the potential threat, public safety actions, and recommended steps to help prevent, mitigate or respond to the threat.
  • In some cases, alerts will be sent directly to law enforcement or affected areas of the private sector, while in others, alerts will be issued to the American people through official and media channels.
  • A link to the new system is available at www.ReadySanDiego.com 

What is the impact of budget cuts on regional disaster preparedness?

  • Federal Homeland Security grants have decreased, but our region remains committed to our comprehensive risk management and emergency preparedness program.
  • We have built strong capabilities in the past 10 years, and our challenge now is to sustain those with the resources available to us.

The San Diego airport sits in a very populated area. How does the region coordinate with the airport to prevent terrorism?

  • Our Law Enforcement Coordination Center (LECC) coordinates directly with the Airport and TSA regarding counter-terrorism.
  • In addition, the Unified Disaster Council has established a “lifelines” coordination sub-committee that meets regularly to discuss the inter-relationships of the key agencies within our region, to include SDG&E, the Water Authority, local hospitals, the San Diego Airport, communication companies and others.
  • Through this sub-committee, as well as through regular training and exercises, the region works with the airport authority to coordinate our activities. 

What are your areas for improvement in preventing terrorism?

Communication.  Our regional communication system is robust but there are always opportunities to expand and improve communication among agencies.  Communication technology is also an area that progresses and changes rapidly.

Some argue that this “See Something, Say Something” campaign encourages people to spy on their neighbor. Is that what you are asking people to do?

No, the “See Something, Say Something” campaign is designed to encourage citizens to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings…and to report activity that is out of the ordinary and suspicious.  There have been several attempted terrorist attacks in the United States over the past few years that have been prevented because ordinary citizens noticed something unusual and reported it to authorities.

The Eight Signs of Terrorism