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2003 ANSI Annual Conference Sheds Light on the "Collaboration, Innovation, and Standardization" in Homeland Security

Washington, DC, Oct 01, 2003

“What is the definition of preparedness?” This was the question posed by former Governor of Virginia James S. Gilmore III during his keynote address at the American National Standards Institute’s 2003 Annual Conference, Homeland Security: Innovation, Collaboration, and Standardization. On Wednesday, October 1, 2003, in Washington, DC, the conference brought together standards experts and representatives of government, industry, and technology to explore the role of standards work in addressing urgent national priorities related to homeland security and emergency preparedness.

Gilmore, chairman of the Congressional Advisory Commission on Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction, described a bottom-up approach to homeland security and emergency preparedness during his morning address to the assembly of nearly 200 attendees. Gilmore urged that the primary focus should rest on local first responders and the coordination of their needs, followed by the development of a state or regional strategy, then coordination of a national strategy. “There will always be an amount of risk,” he said. “The key to your work is in minimizing that risk.”

Dr. Mark W. Hurwitz, CAE, ANSI’s president and chief executive officer, commended the group on their enthusiasm and participation. “The voluntary standardization community has a long history of stepping forward to assist in meeting the needs of both the government and the private sector when coordination challenges have come about.” He expressed his hope that the conference discussions would help the assembled leaders of industry and government, “to understand the critical role we each play in the identification and development of standards that support homeland security efforts.”

The first of the day’s panels looked at ANSI’s recent coordination role with the ANSI Homeland Security Standards Panel (ANSI-HSSP). Working closely with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the cross-sectoral group is making important progress in unearthing existing standards solutions and identifying needs that have yet to be met. The panel featured a DHS representative and the chairs of the ANSI-HSSP.

Panel II focused on biological and chemical threats, beginning with a practical account of the United States Postal Service’s response to the 2001 anthrax attacks. Additional panel presentations gave an overview of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s role in homeland security, and explanation of the Food and Drug Administration’s aim to strengthen its capability to prepare for and respond to terrorist threats and incidents, as well as an overview of DHS integrated systems approach to biological and chemical countermeasures.

The most stirring portion of the conference came during the luncheon featuring Chief Joseph Pfeifer, Chief of Planning and Strategy, Deputy Assistant Chief of Operations, New York City Fire Department. As the first chief on-site at the World Trade Center attacks on 9-11, Chief Pfeifer attempted to help the audience “see it from the eyes of the firefighters,” to give them insight into the experience and needs of first responders.

Chief Pfeifer remarked that during recovery efforts at the WTC site, “a lot of people came to us with products, and there was no standard for us to judge. And a lot of products did not do what they were supposed to do.” He urged an investment in response capabilities in any reshaping of anti-terrorism strategies, especially in the areas of communication technology.

ANSI chairman of the board Dr. George Arnold thanked Chief Pfeifer for his “unforgettable call to action,” and the conference continued with four concurrent panels on personnel certification, safety and medical standards for first responders, product and equipment certification, and cyber security.

At the close of the conference, Arnold remarked, “I am confident that by working together, we can identify the significant work that has already been achieved…and efficiently communicate this information to those organizations and government agencies that can make use of this existing knowledge. But we must not dwell on the past and what has already been accomplished,” he continued. “I am certain that new opportunities for contributions from the standards community will arise, and I am equally confident that we will continue to answer the emerging challenges of protecting and securing our shared national good.”

Conference proceedings, including many presentations, will be available soon on the ANSI website.

 Homeland Defense and Security Standardization Collaborative