August 10, 2006

Reginald Centracchio For Lieutenant Governor, Part 2: Accountability and Emergency Management

Carroll Andrew Morse

Anchor Rising continues its interview with Reginald Centracchio, candidate for Liuetenant Governor of Rhode Island...

Anchor Rising: You said that you want to make the Lieutenant Governor's office more than just advisory. How would you go about that?
Reginald Centracchio: I would recommend to the Governor that he issue an executive order that would place the accountability into the Lieutenant Governor’s office for emergency management and readiness, long-term healthcare and affordable healthcare, and small business by working closely with the Economic Development Corporation. I have many plans to make Rhode Island the point of interest and focus as to how we set an environment that allows business stay competitive with our sister states within the region.

The concepts I want to apply are really no different in the civilian environment than they are in the military. There’s always a way to use system in place to meet a required end result.

AR: When it comes to our emergency management systems, it seems that we, as a society, are pretty good at getting first responders – the heroic responders – to the places they need to be. But we’re a little weaker when it comes to getting regular people involved, at getting them to support the wider effort that’s necessary. How do we better get regular citizens involved in emergency response?
RC: Clearly a challenge across the United States. We’re a citizenry that expects the government will be in place to take care us. We have made many assumptions that when things go wrong, somebody is going to come out of someplace to take care of us.

There is a huge education program that is about to be launched by the Governor’s office, in conjunction with the Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross. It’s called CERT, which stands for Citizen Emergency Response Team. That targets exactly what you just said. It gets individuals involved in the emergency response capability of their particular town or city through the Red Cross and their local EMA directors. We need to ensure that we have the basis in the general citizenry to put together additional resources for the mayors of the cities and the administrators of the towns that we will be able to access. We need to continue to educate the responsibility of individuals and households.

We have built a system in the United States upon the incident command system. The incident command system means that the first responder, a fire chief or police chief or other official responsible for public safety, will be the first one on scene. They would handle such things as natural disasters or other areas that may be driven by Homeland security. But most importantly, the ingredient that you put out for consideration, is that every one of us needs to build an emergency response capability within our own homes and be able to subsist for about 72 hours before any resources would come into the state from the region or across the United States. A clear example of that was Hurricane Katrina, when much of the response capability was dependent on local and state government, but the danger happened so quickly, that the people and the homesteads in the area were not ready to be able to last for several days without depending on somebody outside of the immediacy of their home.

So, there is a tremendous education challenge that we have before us. I can certainly work on that through the office of the Lieutenant Governor by bringing in the general public and helping them understand that the responsibility starts within the home. It starts within the family. It starts within a larger family, such as shut-ins, or individuals that need medical care that might not be otherwise thought about during the initial stages of an emergency.

The point you started with, once again, was an extremely valid one. We have a big challenge in front of us to make sure that John and Sarah Q Public understand that they have an initial responsibility to take care of themselves. We intend to teach them how to do that and make sure people have emergency supply kits in the home, have several days worth of water, have first-aid kits ready, have batteries and a battery operated radio and things of that nature ready.

We have come to depend so much on technology in this society that if we lose our cell-phones, we lose our communications capability and are dead in the water. We need to develop alternatives that go back to basics – like talking to each other without the use of cell-phones. About 3 or 4 years ago, we lost a satellite. All of the pagers went down. Much of our cell capability went down. During vacations, when all of the kids are out of school, and at other times, when business-as-usual is not taking place, it’s very common to see a busy signal on phones. You never really see that, unless the system is saturated. On 9/11 we learned that. Everyone was on the phone trying to contact somebody, and therefore we didn’t have communications.

Communications is absolutely essential. But we need to develop alternative systems and redundancy within the communication system across United States. Here in Rhode Island we need to do that too.

Coming in part 3: Plans for helping small business