Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex: Lone Star Protection

Fortunately, Ferris is part of the EllisDallas Unified Cooperative Team (EDUCT), a consortium of about a dozensmall to medium-sized cities.
“The explosion put off cyanide gas and the city of Ferris is not equipped
to handle an emergency of this magnitude,”recalled Phillip Mongeau, an emergency preparedness specialist for theNorth Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), an association oflocal governments that assists regional planning, cooperation andcoordination. “Because of the EDUCT’s relationship with the city ofDallas, its HAZMAT team was able to respond, along with other entitiesin south Dallas County, to help those smaller cities successfullymitigate the incident.”
It was an example of the kind of coordinationthat has been growing among the many cities that make up theDallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
“Our response to events like the explosion in Ferris has been greatly improved,” Mongeau told HSToday.EDUCT, NCTCOG and the Joint Terrorism Task Force headed up by the FBIand partnerships among localities have improved local responsivenessand readiness to deal with all forms of disaster, from potentialterrorism to natural calamities.
The interoperability need
NCTCOG covers more than 12,200 square miles,16 counties, 244 independent jurisdictions and 7 million people. Withso many governmental entities and raw space to cover, communicationbetween all the agencies is a top priority, according to MollyMcFadden, an emergency preparedness specialist at NCTCOG.
The council administers the state’sDepartment of Homeland Security (DHS) grants. A 40-member regionalgroup looks at security gaps and works to fund the projects that fillthem. Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington have all been designated asUrban Area Security Initiative (UASI) cities, and have received fundingto improve their homeland security, but the cities work together andlook at regional projects.
“Seven or eight funding sources are allcoming through the state or NCTCOG now, and we’re looking forward totrue regional projects,” said Rocky Vaz, manager of homeland securityfunds for the city of Dallas, which works closely with NCTCOG. Hisfirst goal is for agencies to improve technology and equipment.
Thiswas emphasized by an NCTCOG-commissionedstudy showing that interoperable communications for voice for all radiosystems owned by public safety agencies was the area’s biggest need inemergency management.
“Interoperability needs to be addressed, aswell as the technology we have available to deploy,” agreed Sgt.Gilbert Banda, intelligence unit supervisor for the Fort Worth PoliceDepartment (FWPD). “The city of Fort Worth works on a limited budget.When it comes to terrorism, the terrorists have an unlimited budget. Wehave to fight fire with fire. I can see a 16-year-old sending his mom apicture of a restaurant menu on a camera phone, while I can’t make [anofficial] phone call without the cell tower dropping it.”
“It is critical that we be able tocommunicate with our immediate neighbors on the same radio frequency,”said Kenny Shaw, emergency management coordinator for the city ofDallas. “Interoperability will have us all moving to the same generalfrequencies. There is encryption available to disengage the ability tomonitor the channels, but we’re reserving that capability for some ofour special teams, bomb and HAZMAT teams and it is expensive to add toindividuals.” While all agencies in the area work off the same800-megahertz radio system, “Just a few years ago, we were all ondifferent channels,” he added.
 “Once everyone catches up with basicequipment needs, we’ll be looking at large projects like theinteroperability projects,” Vaz said. “That is the trend for the pasttwo or three years. Agencies have built up equipment and SWAT andHAZMAT teams, examined how to do more training exercises together,planning, mutual aid and how to respond. We will have interoperablecommunications in the next 18 months. We might be the first region thislarge to be interoperable.”
Airport efforts
Throughout the metroplex, jurisdictions aredoing what they can to increase security. Even the Department of PublicSafety (DPS) at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) isinvolved in local and national partnerships.
“We are actively involved in the JointTerrorism Taskforce, with full-time FBI agents headquartered in ourairport,” said Alvy Dodson, DPS director and vice president. “We havemutual aid agreements with all the agencies in the DFW area, and wework together on all sorts of situations, as well as sharing ofintelligence and situational awareness from tornados to bomb threats orterrorism watch alerts. We have the mechanisms in place to have almostimmediate sharing of information and communications. It is same thingwith other airports across the US and major UK and Canadian airports.”
Success is measured in a variety of ways, too.
“DFW, like other airports around the country,from LAX to Atlanta, were having terminal evacuations,” Dodson said.“We came up with some unique ways to forestall that problem that havebeen very successful.”
Working with the local federal securitydirector, DFW officials implemented changes at the checkpoints and putin a digital security surveillance system that allows DPS officers tomonitor all emergency exit doors.
“If someone opens the door, this allows us tocall up that image before the alarm goes off to see if that exit wasjust used from a sterile to a non-sterile area, or to see if somethingwas passed through the door,” Dodson said.
“Before this, we’d have to dump terminals.This gives us the ability to go find that subject very quickly to avoidterminal evacuation,” he added. “Operationally, before this, it was anightmare. The airlineindustry can’t afford that and it has a hugeeffect on delayed flights that causes a ripple effect across thecountry at times.”
All the metroplex agencies are focused onincident prevention, and Dallas has taken a particular interest inearly warning systems.
“We have some new projects designed toprotect hot spots and large venues,” Vaz said. “We will have encryptedwi-fi, special passwords and be on the same system to talk to eachother in caseother communications systems go down. We’re using proventechnology on a limited basis in the Central Business District, and wewant to deploy it throughout the city on hot spots.”
Indeed, the FWPD Intelligence Unit is one of the nation’s leaders in state-of-the-art early warning technology.
“We are on the cutting edge on severallevels,” said Banda. “We are at the leading edge of technology. We havehad other police departments call us and ask how we’re doing it,because we have a good foundation to build upon, they look at us.”
FWPD officers are using high-tech on thestreets with personal digital assistants (PDAs) and surveillancecameras so small they can fit on the head of a writing pen. Withminimal hardware, police can monitor and track persons of interestwirelessly.
“With a flick of a button on a PDA, we canhave live stream video capturing images,” said Banda. “We can doeverything on a Blackberry, researching background information fromhome before arriving at the scene.”
The FWPD, too, prides itself on cooperation with other entities and the city’s residents.
“On our website, there are methods in whichthe citizenry can report suspicious activity,” Banda said. “They cansend information and we can follow those leads. We have a motto here:‘In God we trust; everyone else we investigate.’”
That level of participation applies to theairport, too. “The success of increased security is the fact that wehave such a positive and active participation in security matters fromthe entire airport community. We have taken community-orientedpolicing, intensified and increased it throughout the airport,” Dodsonsaid.
“From airline employees to theconcessionaires and the people who mow our grass—they’re all activeparticipants,” he added. “It is a huge, huge factor in the success ofeverything we do here. The public knows that we encourage theirparticipation and they call us with anything that doesn’t look right,whether it is people, vehicles or situations. They know that we aregoing to respond to it. That is a huge factor in the success that we’vehad. That is a real-world, every day, 24/7 thing going on.”
As in so many jurisdictions—particularlylarge ones like the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex—interoperabilitycontinues to be a major issue. However, in the years since Sept. 11,2001, the region’s authorities have made major strides in closing itsgaps and vulnerabilities.
Still, effective communication and technologyare only the groundwork for success. The growing teamwork amongemergency management and individuals has led to remarkable progress inpublic safety. For this large region, partnerships are proving a keyelement in ensuring improved security from all threats—natural, as wellas man-made. HST
Tonie Auer is a writerbased in Denton, Texas. She is the president of Penguin MediaConsultants, which can be found at www.penguinmediaconsultants.com. Shefrequently writes for several nationally published magazines.
Doing business with the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex
Most agencies in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex are busily purchasing new equipment.
Selling to the city of Fort Worth means goingthrough the purchasing department, whose contact information can befound at www.fortworthgov.com/purchasing.
“We try to stay cloaked as much as we can,”said Sgt. Gilbert Banda, intelligence unit supervisor for the FortWorth Police Department. “The city has a protocol for vendors to gothrough the procurement at city hall. We look for vendors and wecontact them often, but we hesitate to give that information out,because in the wrong hands, it could impede our mission.”
Rocky Vaz, manager of homeland security funds for the city of Dallas, is the contact point for vendors approaching that city.
“I’d send them to appropriate people throughthe city to look at the project,” he said. “We have quarterly meetingsto discuss and arrange vendor appearances.”
Vaz can be reached at City of Dallas, 1500Marilla, 2BN, Dallas, Texas 75201, or by phone at 214-670-5363 (fax214-670-5798). His email address is rockvaz@ci.dallas.tx.us, and theprocurement department information can be found atwww.dallascityhall.com/dallas/eng/html/purchasing-bdd.html.
Anyone wanting to bid on projects for theNorth Central Texas Council of Governments can visit the organization’swebsite at www.nctcog.org/callforprojects.html.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport hasits own procurement website at www.dfwairport.com/procurement/. Vendorsmust register to be included in the business opportunities at DFW. Foradditional information on the registration and procurement process atDFW, go to vendor registration at www.dfwairport.com/business/vendor_register.htm.

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