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The American Public Works Association (APWA) applauds the President’s continued commitment to the nation’s first responders and the emphasis on high threat areas and vulnerabilities apparent in his Fiscal Year 2005 budget proposal released yesterday.
The APWA is nonetheless concerned about the shift away from fully funding the State and Local Training Programs so critical to assure that our local responders are prepared to work together seamlessly.
"One of APWA’s top priorities is to assure that public works officials are adequately trained as they respond to their call as first responders," said Peter King, executive director of APWA.
"The message from our 27,000 members is that an efficient, coordinated response to an emergency – whether natural disaster or a terrorist event – requires training for all involved. Public works first responders are side by side fire, police, emergency managers and other emergency responders, yet are not commonly part of the advance preparation. All responders must have a common lexicon, must understand the command structure, and must recognize the value each discipline brings to the table. How well all first responders are trained and work together will make or break our response to a terrorist attack."
The Administration’s budget request reduces funding for training by 43%t, from $202 million to only $87 million.
APWA members point out that in many communities public works officials are not involved in emergency planning stages, but are immediately called upon to restore service when utilities are damaged, to put up the safety barricades, assure the structural integrity of buildings, remove debris hazardous to other first responders and the public, and provide engineering and operational advice.
" We are often the forgotten heroes," said Brian Usher, chairman of the APWA’s emergency management committee, "We are there alongside fire, police, and other emergency responders, and we’re usually still there after everyone has gone home. It is essential we are trained to fit into the response structure in case of terrorist attack, and we need to educate other responders about what we bring to the table."
The APWA urges the President to restore funding for training to assure the most effective, efficient response capabilities in the world.