South Dakota officials urged to join anti-terrorism Net service (Is your community connected?)

Attorney General Larry Long is urging local officials across South Dakota to join a national computer network that provides information to help deal with terrorism threats and other emergencies.

"Local units of government can sign up for this, and it’s free of charge. It’s a good deal," Long said Monday. "We frankly have had trouble getting most of the communities to sign up."

By Chet Brokaw, Associated Press

Bob Grandpre, assistant director of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, said 94 local governments and other agencies have signed up so far in South Dakota. That’s only a small fraction of the agencies eligible to join, so he’s working to let more local officials know about the system and the help it can provide.

The system, available through a secure network on the Internet, allows approved officials to go to a Web site and contribute information, ask questions and get information relevant to their areas of expertise. It deals not only with terrorism issues, but also other emergencies and disasters such as diseases, earthquakes and school violence.

Those eligible include city and county officials, tribal officials, directors of public works, firefighters, school administrators, representatives of utility and telephone companies, bankers, emergency and disaster service officials, and medical facilities.

Local officials can gain access to the system only after they have been approved and equipment has been installed on their computers.

Long and Grandpre said that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, federal officials realized they needed a better way to distribute information quickly to local officials around the nation.

The new Internet system is attached to a national network that has existed for more than two decades to let law enforcement agencies share information. South Dakota law officers have taken part in that Regional Information Sharing System for many years.

The new Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange allows non-law enforcement officials to use the parts of the system that are relevant to them. They cannot get to the law enforcement section.

South Dakota was the first state to test the new system, beginning in June. Other states started signing up local officials in October, and 492 are hooked up nationally, Grandpre said.

"Basically, it’s your community leaders who, when a crisis would happen, are the people you would want to get this information out to first so they could help their cities and towns prepare for what is going on," Grandpre said.

The system not only provides information from federal officials. It also includes Internet bulletin boards to let officials discuss issues and an e-mail system so information can be quickly sent to specific people, Grandpre said.

For example, if officials in one state notice someone suspicious taking pictures of city water facilities, they could quickly alert their colleagues nationally to check whether similar activities have been noticed elsewhere, he said.

The new network includes all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, Canada, England and Australia.

"The more you hook up, the more viable this is and the more information that can be exchanged," Grandpre said.

Debbie Brakke, vice president at St. Mary’s Healthcare Center in Pierre, said hospital officials have not yet used the new system much, but she believes it could be valuable when an emergency occurs.

Part of the problem is that medical facilities already get a lot of information on diseases and other health threats through the state Health Department and other sources, and the new national Internet system seems to provide the same information, Brakke said.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.

Sorry, we couldn't find any posts. Please try a different search.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.