Fairfax, Va. – Fire Chief Sam Greif of the Plano (Texas) Fire-Rescue Department today told a Congressional panel that it is vital that fire and EMS departments stay aware of emerging cybersecurity threats and develop close working relationships with local law enforcement and emergency managers, and he said federal funding should support first-responder education and training and fusion-center operations across the country.
Greif, who oversaw communications systems during his tenure at the Fort Worth Fire Department, testified today before the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies of the Committee on Homeland Security. The hearing was held at Austin College in Sherman, Texas.
The committee, chaired by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), considered issues surrounding cyber preparedness and response at the local level. The hearing explored different cyber-training opportunities for state and local officials to bolster cyber preparedness and response.
“Cybercrime and cyber attacks are becoming a more prevalent threat to the American homeland,” Greif said. “However, the fire and emergency service is just beginning to recognize how these threats can affect our operations. The federal government can be an important partner in an effective cybersecurity regime.
“Many fire departments are not aware of the threat that they face. The Department of Homeland Security can work with the U.S. Fire Administration and National Fire Academy to develop education and training for local fire and EMS departments. The IAFC recommends that USFA’s budget be restored to the FY 2011 level of $45.6 million in order to facilitate this educational effort.”
In addition, Greif said, DHS should continue to fund the state Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) and Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). These programs support fusion-center operations. In addition, these grants can be used to fund a cyber component to regional training and exercises.
“Unfortunately, the administration’s FY 2017 budget request would impose draconian cuts on these programs,” Greif said. “The SHSGP would be cut by more than 50% and the UASI would be cut by 45%. We recommend that these programs be funded at least to the FY 2016 levels of $467 million for SHSGP and $600 million for UASI.”
Fire and EMS chiefs should also develop close working relationships with local law enforcement, emergency managers and surrounding jurisdictions.
“In Fort Worth, I worked with the local police intelligence unit to stay aware of threats,” Greif said. “In Plano, I meet monthly with the city communications director, the police chief and the emergency manager to discuss how to improve and secure our communications.”
Read Greif’s full testimony at www.iafc.org. View hearing video.
About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more