Despite 9/11, 'Citizen Complacency' A Threat
Source: NewYork nynewsday.com
Date: January 09, 2004
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Though home to ground zero and the worst horrors of Sept. 11, 2001, "citizen complacency" toward terrorism remains a serious problem in New York state, a state legislative committee has concluded.
Sen. Michael Balboni, chairman of the Senate's Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, said too few New Yorkers know how to deal with another terrorist strike.
"New Yorkers were clearly shaken by the events of 9/11, but not stirred to do what's necessary to prepare themselves and their families for another disaster," Balboni said. "The government has to engage the public in the war on terrorism."
Balboni cited a 2003 survey by the Red Cross that indicated four of 10 New York City residents are not aware of what steps they should take to ensure the safety of themselves and their families.
Three-quarters of the city residents don't have a plan in place for coping with disasters, the survey found.
Balboni called those numbers "amazing." But he also noted that New Yorkers got through the emergency of the blackout of August 2003 with a minimum of problems.
"Maybe New Yorkers haven't taken the kind of steps that the Red Cross thinks they should, but certainly psychologically they're in a lot better place than they were on Sept. 11," Balboni said.
While the federal, state and local governments have created homeland security apparatuses and trained emergency workers to respond to another attack, those first responders have not been first in line for funding, Balboni's committee said.
In addition, the committee said smaller regional airports in New York are a cause of "serious concern" because they lack the security of busier airports^; hospitals and other health care facilities could still be "overwhelmed" by a major terrorist event^; law enforcement agencies should better coordinate their anti-terrorism efforts^; and state laws are insufficient to deal with cyberterrorism or an attack to poison the food supply.
New York remains perhaps the nation's No. 1 terror target, as it was on Sept. 11, because of "population density, infrastructure, national landmarks and position as the economic capital of the world," said Balboni, a Long Island Republican.
"We can't lose focus," he said. "The terrorists are waiting for us to let our guard down. They waited eight years (between 1993 and 2001) to attack the World Trade Center. They'll wait eight or more years to come back at us."
The committee recommended establishing the state Office of Public Security under law. It is currently authorized by an executive order issued by Gov. George Pataki. It also said the Legislature should pass laws strengthening or creating laws against agriterrorism and cyberterrorism.
The conclusions of Balboni's panel in part echo statements made recently by the Pataki administration's top security advisers.
James Kallstrom, Pataki's special security adviser, told a joint Assembly-Senate hearing last month that the federal government still was not sharing enough information about terrorism with local policemen, who might encounter terrorists at any time on their beats.
James McMahon, the head of the state Office of Public Security, said New York continues to be shortchanged by the federal government for homeland security funding relative to other states.
New York deserves more money because it has to protect targets that prompted terror attacks in 1993 and 2001, he said.
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