Tuesday, June 8, 2004

City gets role in research to combat terror

Emergency operations center in Price Hill is key to effort

By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer

George Voinovich (left) announces Cincinnati's role in the war on terror Monday in Price Hill. With him is Charles McQueary, of the Department of Homeland Security.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/GARY LANDERS
PRICE HILL - Cincinnati will help the U.S. Department of Homeland Security develop new technologies that will allow cities across the nation to better respond to terrorist attacks.

Research conducted here, for example, could give police, fire and other emergency response crews tiny sensors that can be pinned to their jackets and alert them to possible exposure to smallpox, anthrax and other pathogens in the air.

Cincinnati is one of four pilot cities for the $10 million project. The other locations have yet to be announced.

U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, announced Cincinnati's role Monday at the city's new emergency operations center atop Knob Hill. The center, still under development, will serve as Greater Cincinnati's "war room" in case of a terrorist attack.

Voinovich was joined by Charles McQueary, undersecretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security.

McQueary said Cincinnati's emergency operations center is one reason the city was chosen to be a research site.

"This region has demonstrated the willingness and the capacity to adopt innovative concepts for emergency preparedness," McQueary said.

The operations center, announced earlier this year, is Cincinnati's highest-profile use of federal homeland security money that is filtering down to U.S. cities. The 40,000-square-foot building - former headquarters of Slush Puppie Corp. - is being remodeled.

About $500,000 will be spent to build a sleek, mission-control-like operating pit with giant video screens and rows of computer stations. Analysts there will work year-round to assess local terror threats and study ways to beef up security at potential targets, such as high-rise buildings.

The command center is a city project, but officials hope to make it a regional resource. Emergency responders from surrounding counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana - and representatives from the FBI, the Coast Guard, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Ohio Department of Health - are being invited to place offices there.

McQueary said another factor in choosing Cincinnati for the research project is the work being conducted at the National Homeland Security Research Center, based at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offices on Martin Luther King Drive in Corryville.

The center directs the nation's research on the clean-up of contaminated buildings and ways to protect the nation's drinking water and air.

"We hope and pray that we never have to respond to another terrorist attack, but if we have to, we will be prepared," Voinovich said.

E-mail mleingang@enquirer.com

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