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Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Audit Committee gets updates about Emergency Management

Audits


Wisconsin
’s Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) issued a review of Wisconsin Emergency Management during May 2010.  The LAB found the following:

 

 

  • The Department of Homeland Security directly awarded local governments and others $99.8 million from fiscal year 2004-05 through fiscal year 2008-09.
  • Unresolved funding issues will continue to challenge the development of a statewide communications system.
  • Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM)has not shared all parts of the Wisconsin Emergency Response Plan with county and tribal emergency management departments.
  • There is no existing inventory of all emergency management resources.
  • WEM’s process for analyzing responses to specific emergencies could be improved.

 

 

The LAB recommended that the Office of Justice Assistance (OJA) report to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee by August 31, 2010, about the construction of basic infrastructure for the statewide communications system and on costs to local governments for buying related equipment and helping to operate the system. The LAB also recommended that WEM report to the committee about plans for completing all sections of the state’s emergency management plan and sharing them with all county and tribal emergency management departments. WEM was also instructed to report about plans to establish a statewide system for tracking emergency and update the committee on efforts to improve responses to emergencies.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee held a public hearing last week to announce more details about what Auditor Jan Mueller called “a sweeping, wide-ranging review.”

Dean Swenson of the LAB noted that during the five-year period from fiscal year 2004-05 to fiscal year 2008-09:

  • The Department of Homeland security awarded $318.5 million to Wisconsin including $241 million for emergency management and $77.5 million for presidentially declared disasters.
  • OJA spent $120.8 million.
  • Funds were spent under broad federal rules that were followed correctly.
  • WEM spent over $26 million under broad federal rules that were followed correctly.
  • The Department of Homeland Security gave local governments $99.8 million.


Other issues addressed by Dean Swenson of the LAB:

 

  • Wisconsin does not have a statewide communication system for emergency responders.
  • Infrastructure for the system continues to be developed.
  • Some local governments have expressed concerns about the cost and functionality of the system.
  • WEM is updating the Wisconsin Emergency Response Plan and has not shared all segments of the plan with county and tribal emergency management departments.
  • Wisconsin lacks an inventory of emergency response resources.
  • WEM should complete the plan and share all details.
  • WEM should track resources statewide.
  • WEM should improve its process of responding to emergencies.
  • Wisconsin is a home rule state. Therefore, local governments decide how to perform emergency services.
  • There are more needs than can be addressed.
  • With 2300 emergency agencies statewide, there will be disagreement about how emergency funding is spent.

 

 

Wisconsin’s Adjutant General, Brigadier General Donald Dunbar testified before the committee stating he is proud of a superb staff that has maintained excellent coordination with local and tribal emergency management departments. Wisconsin combines the National Guard with emergency management. Dunbar called it “a good fit.”

The state is in the process of converting from the State Operations Plan to the Wisconsin Emergency Response Plan (WERP) with 15 Emergency Support Functions and four Incident Specific Annexes- cyber, terrorism, severe weather and catastrophic incident events. Dunbar expects the plan to be finalized by November 30, 2010.

Dunbar also informed the LAB an electronic system to track emergency management resources statewide is in place and functional. Over 5,000 state, county, tribal and local officials have been trained and authorized to sue the system, E-SPONDER.

WEM has a process to conduct After Action Reviews (AARs) following incidents. This process is also used by the National Guard and many local and state agencies. AARs were used during Milwaukee area flooding.

OJA Executive Director David Steingraber testified about WISCOM (Wisconsin Interoperable System for Communications), a shared statewide system designed to allow statewide responders to communicate during major disasters. WISCOM will work with current radio systems and can be expanded to accommodate more channels. Steingraber says WISCOM’s coverage will be provided by installing equipment on 80 existing state-owned radio towers located throughout the state.

During 2009, OJA gave a $16.5 million grant to the state department of Transportation (DOT) to manage construction of WISCOM. A contract has been issued to EF Johnson technologies to build, test, and ship system components to Wisconsin where DOT engineers will complete the installation. Steingraber says that will save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Equipment was placed on the first site during March 2010 and a second site during July 2010. Scheduled installations at four other sites were scheduled to be completed by the end of August 2010. DOT engineers are working on antennas at all 80 sites. OJA expects that 70 percent of the sites will be activated by July 1, 2011. Steingraber believes demand to subscribe to WISCOM will be high necessitating considerable staff resources. WISCOM, when completed, will provide coverage to 95 percent of the state. Steingraber says WISCOM will be finished by September 30, 2011.

For more information, including a link to audio of the complete Audit Committee public hearing, go to this website.

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