WASHINGTON, D.C. -- DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said America's firefighters are truly the face of homeland security.
Addressing about 1,800 at the annual CFSI Fire and Emergency Services dinner Thursday night, Napolitano told them she holds fire and rescue personnel in high regard.
She said she understands sharing of information on threats is essential for the safety of responders, and vowed that her office will continue to keep the lines of communication open.
With that, she announced a move to officially make the fire service an official partner in fusion centers, a clearinghouse for terrorist information.
Fusion centers -- recommended following the federal investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- are staffed by federal employees.
Napolitano encouraged responders to keep their eyes and ears open for suspicious activity.
"The integration of fire service organizations and personnel into the fusion process enhances the efforts of all homeland security partners across all mission areas," officials said in a document entitled Fire Service Integration for Fusion Centers.
Napolitano said it only makes sense that the people who are intimately familiar with their communities be included in the intelligence gathering.
Among the key points for including them in the fusion centers, officials listed the following:
- Fire service personnel can contribute to the identification and reporting of threats that may lead to accidental, criminal, or terrorist incidents and can serve as an information and analytical resource for the production of intelligence to support incident prevention efforts.
- Fire service personnel can provide a valuable perspective to the identification and reporting of critical infrastructure and key resource vulnerabilities and the identification of potential consequences of threats exploiting those vulnerabilities.
- Fire service personnel can contribute to, receive, and share information and intelligence to support the effective response operations of all emergency service providers.
- Fire service personnel can contribute to, receive, and share information and intelligence to support the continuity of government and reconstitution of critical infrastructure operations.
- Fire service personnel can contribute to and receive information and intelligence on terrorism techniques, target hazards, and natural disaster trends, to enhance situational awareness and proactive measures for protecting the health and safety of all emergency responders.