For those of us who remember exactly where we were and what we were doing on Sept. 11, 2001, it may be difficult to believe that 11 years have slipped by since that tragic morning.
That date is of course forever etched in the country’s memory, much like the end of World War II, President Kennedy’s assassination and Neil Armstrong’s setting foot on the moon.
And just as those dates ushered in new eras in our history, 9/11 has proven to be no different. Since then, we have rededicated ourselves to our security, both here and abroad, so that we are better prepared whenever disaster strikes, whether caused by man or Mother Nature.
With September now known as National Preparedness month, it is a good time to recall just what that means.
Kentucky has long played an outsized role in this area. No military base has seen more deployments than Fort Campbell since 2001, for example, and Fort Knox’s presence has grown significantly over the last half-dozen years in the wake of federal base realignments across the country. The Kentucky National Guard also routinely exceeds its recruiting goals each year.
According to a report last year by the Washington Post, we are exactly in the middle of the 50 states when counting the number of counterterrorism and homeland security organizations we have. In terms of raw dollars, however, Kentucky was eleventh during the 2009 fiscal year when measuring federal homeland security funding.
The Post added that we were one of just 13 states during the decade following 9/11 where U.S. Attorneys secured at least one terrorism-related conviction. Since December, two others have also pleaded guilty here to federal terrorism charges.
There are other ways Kentucky is involved when it comes to improving our safety. Six years ago, the FBI opened a regional computer forensics lab in Louisville, which is helping law enforcement sift through thousands of gigabytes of data found at crime scenes.
The U.S. Secret Service, meanwhile, has the Kentucky Electronic Crimes Task Force, which helps find, stop and prosecute technology-based crimes, such as identity theft. At the state level, we have the Kentucky Intelligence Fusion Center, which for the last seven years has brought together local, state and federal agencies so that all are one the same page when it comes to analyzing potential threats across the commonwealth.
According to the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, Kentucky is the only state to own a statewide mobile data network and require that all local first responders – such as police and fire departments – be able to access it at no cost. This, too, greatly improves communication, especially when time is critical. Given the devastating weather Kentucky has faced – there have been 11 presidentially declared disasters here alone since 2008 – the need for this has unfortunately become quite clear.
Another important step Kentucky has taken recently is implementing a statewide electronic warrants system, so that charges filed in one county can be seen in another. Before, under the paper-based system, there was almost no way for law enforcement agencies to know if someone they had stopped was wanted elsewhere in the state for a crime. This change has understandably helped reduce the backlog of un-served warrants.
Our universities are also playing a role when it comes to better protecting the public. Eastern Kentucky University offers a bachelor’s degree in homeland security, while research at the University of Kentucky has led to such developments as a fast-drying, spray-on concrete, which would help stabilize buildings damaged by the weather or terrorist attacks. Other research has been done to protect milk supplies from contamination, to detect trace amounts of explosives and to keep ammonium nitrate fertilizer from being used as an explosive.
As citizens, there are ways we can help as well when it comes to improving safety. If you see or are aware of any criminal or even terroristic activity, please call 1-866-EYE-ON-KY. This is an anonymous tip line sponsored by the Kentucky Intelligence Fusion Center and the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security.