Author: Brian R. Haines
In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks the nation developed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to coordinate a unified national strategy to protect against and respond to terrorism attacks. These efforts create a united front that includes enhancing security efforts at the border, airports and elsewhere, as well as improving cybersecurity and emergency response activities that provide for national security.
“Our role is to proactively coordinate the implementation of the State Homeland Security Program, which focuses its efforts in areas that align with the national program. We also work to secure federal funding in an effort to improve the state’s capabilities to prevent, protect, respond and recover from all hazards, including terrorist attacks.” explains Robert Trumbo, who serves as the Assistant Director for Homeland Security with N.C. Emergency Management (NCEM), a division of the N.C. Department of Public Safety.
One important area falls under NCEM’s critical infrastructure branch, which coordinates preparedness and recovery activities in an effort to protect the state’s critical infrastructure from natural or man-made hazards. In addition to roads, bridges and dams, infrastructure also encompasses airports, rail lines, ports, waterways, utilities such as gas and electric and much more.
As a great deal of the state’s critical infrastructure relies on technology, the state maintains a cyber unit made up of local, state and federal resources such as the N.C. National Guard, the N.C. Department of Information Technology, N.C. Local Government Information Systems Association (NCLGISA) and DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), amongst others. The unit, which is housed in NCEM under the state homeland security program, also coordinates activities with the N.C. State Board of Elections to protect the state’s election infrastructure to ensure safe and secure elections.
To help share intelligence across the nation, states and large municipalities opened Fusion Centers. These centers are operated by the states and in some major urban areas with the goal of gathering and analyzing information, which can be shared with other federal and state agencies, as well as local, tribal private sector and other partners. As part of the national program, in 2006 North Carolina opened its own Fusion Center, the N.C. Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAAC). ISAAC serves as a support center for all North Carolina law enforcement, public safety and private sector partners who can submit and receive information. Housed in the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, it is made up of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that investigate and share information related to criminal and terrorist activities that impact state and national security, which includes gang activity as well as narcotic cases.
In an effort to expand preparedness, response and recovery efforts across North Carolina, the state also created nine domestic preparedness regions in 2007 (DPRs) made up of 10-13 counties each. The DPRs include representation from law enforcement agencies, fire and rescue, local and state emergency management, hospitals, public health, and public works. Additionally, the DPRs prioritize federal homeland security funding and recommend projects to the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) on behalf of these local agencies. The SERC works in an advisory capacity to the Secretary of Public Safety, Eddie M. Buffaloe Jr., who is the State Administrative Agent and responsible for the coordination of the North Carolina State Homeland Security Program and the DPRs activities. The N.C. Emergency Management Director, William Ray, is the Deputy Homeland Security Advisor.
The State Homeland Security Program also works to secure federal funding to prevent, protect, respond and recover from all hazards, including terrorist attacks. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recognizes that helping state and local governments to improve their preparedness capabilities benefits the overall security of the nation. To assist with building these capabilities, the department has the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP), which provides funding to aid in the prevention and mitigation of threats, including terrorist acts, and for recovery if needed. Applications for this grant program are due at the end of December. However, in order to receive HSGP funding through the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), recipients and subrecipients must have a National Cybersecurity Review (NCSR). This annual self-assessment review is led by the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) and helps state, local, tribal and territorial organizations to assess their cybersecurity programs and highlights gaps where HSGP funding can help. This time limited program will close Feb. 28, 2022.
Based on the level of risk and the effectiveness of their planning to meet the goals and objectives of North Carolina’s homeland security strategies, the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) helps state and local entities with planning, equipment, training and exercises in order to build and sustain their capabilities.
Members of the public can also take an active role in homeland security by being aware of their surroundings and staying prepared. If you see something, say something by reporting any suspicious activity to your local enforcement agency or dialing 911 in an emergency.