How Does Utah Rate in Disaster Threats?

How Does Utah Rate in Disaster Threats?

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Richard Piatt ReportingCongress is giving the United States failing grades when it comes to security updates since 9-11. A report from Washington today says the nation as a whole isn't doing enough to reduce disaster and security threats. So where does Utah fall on this report card?

It seems so simple: Utah's emergency radio system with interoperability. That means it can link Logan with Saint George, Vernal and Salt Lake City, if necessary.

Robert Craven, State Emergency Operations Center: "It means if they needed to contact us in our emergency operations center, we could do that instantaneously."

That kind of communication didn't exist in New York on 9-11, hindering the emergency response. And for many areas of the nation, it still doesn't exist today. The lack of progress updating communication is one of the reasons former 9-11 Commission members are giving the United States failing grades on preparedness.

Rep. Lee Hamilton, Former 9-11 Commission Member: "Last year the word we heard most often on capitol hill describing this oversight is the word 'dysfunctional.'"

Rep.Thomas Kean, Commission Chairman: "It is scandalous that we still allocate scarce homeland security dollars on the basis of pork barrel spending and not on risk. So we're frustrated, all of us."

State leaders say Utah is not average, in fact way above average. They point to the response to the massive flooding in Southern Utah last winter. The state had already spent 6-million dollars to update radio and computer systems and it paid off, they say.

Homeland security chief Verdi White give Utah an 'A' on that one. He says disaster preparedness is an exercise in managing risk.

Verdi White, Director, Utah Homeland Security: "The plans have to change, they change with the economy, they change with events, and you have to be constantly updating it, you can never say you've totally arrived."

But like the rest of the nation, Utah is also waiting on Congress to enact certain security recommendations in the 9-11 report. And in that way, this state is as still as vulnerable than ever.

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