Colorado’s Preparedness in Homeland Safety

By CTU Faculty

The words “homeland security” likely bring to mind the tragic events of 9/11, an event engrained in our history and one that prompted the creation of the national Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Now the idea of homeland security, and those who are tasked with ensuring it, is dramatized in portrayals on TV shows and movies like Homeland and Zero Dark Thirty.

In reality, the Department of Homeland Security and its partner organizations, including organizations from the American Red Cross to Minor League Baseball, serve a very real and unified purpose: to keep the U.S. safe from foreign and domestic attacks, and to ensure our citizens are prepared.

Learning from History

As the quote goes, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Which is why, in 2013, CTU partnered with the Colorado Emergency Preparedness Partnership (CEPP) , the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (CELL) and Denver’s Canadian consulate for a workshop, "Denver's Response to a Mumbai-style attack." Named after the terrorist event that killed 164 people in November 2008 in India's largest city, the workshop addressed how Denver would respond in a similar incident.

More than 140 people from public, private, nonprofit and faith-based organizations attended the workshop, which featured a panel of experts from the FBI, the State of Colorado, Fire and Emergency Medical Services, among others. There was much to be learned at this panel, but key takeaways were:

  • All organizations need an emergency operations plan. In order to deal with man-made and natural disasters, these plans should include such considerations as shelter in place, food storage, emergency power supplies and evacuation plans.
  • Information sharing is vital. Law enforcement needs the help of private organizations and citizens to do its job effectively. In other words, if you “see something, say something.”
  • The public sector needs resources when emergencies occur. Equipment, tools, facilities, food, protective clothing, water, certain vehicles and professional expertise are just some resources that are vitally needed to effectively respond to different disasters. Colorado is fortunate to have Connect Colorado, a resource registry developed by CEPP that is now managed by the state’s emergency manager. Connect Colorado is a confidential online database designed so that different organizations can register their unique assets and personnel for use by emergency managers in times of need. This registry not only provides the private sector with an opportunity to support Colorado’s communities when disaster strikes, but it also allows for contributing organizations to receive financial reimbursement when their resources were called upon during a declared disaster.
  • Homeland security continues to evolve. As does the focus of dedicated professionals seeking advanced knowledge and skills relevant to the protection of United States territories, communities and organizations from a variety of threats.

Prepared for the Future

Whether it is through panels, conferences or other programs that help the public stay on top of industry happenings and trends, CTU and CEPP encourage people to educate themselves on what could happen and how to prepare for unforeseen events.

For example, CTU is one of only a handful of universities to offer a Master’s degree in Homeland Security (HLS). CTU developed its program to provide serious HLS professionals with the analytical and communication tools to allow them to become thought leaders and decision-makers in one or more areas of the field.

Colorado has not had an easy time over the last year, with fires, shootings and other events that put us in the national spotlight. Fortunately, we have local professionals who exemplify the stellar communication, outstanding preparedness and teamwork that has made our community a model of success. In Colorado Springs alone, we have many leaders in this field right here in our community, such as the South Central Region Pikes Peak Regional Medical Response System and the Homeland Defense Foundation. As members of our community take the time to appreciate those tasked with keeping the public safe in the event of acts of violence or terrorism, let’s remember how critical that job is.