Homeland watch

Chertoff's wife had role at FEMA

The Federal Emergency Management Agency went through major changes while Meryl Justin Chertoff was chief of the disaster response branch at its Office of Legislative Affairs from 2002 to September 2003, when she joined a lobbying firm. FEMA was folded into Homeland Security in March 2003.

Although then-FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh proposed that the agency oversee spending of $3.5 billion in first-responder grants, that responsibility went to another part of DHS. Meryl Chertoff, who is married to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, had to explain FEMA's disaster needs to Congress during that critical period. And perhaps she still may have some answers about FEMA's ability to prepare for major disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.

Malls digitize for disaster

Since Sept. 11, the $23 billion Westfield Group of shopping malls has been spending about $25 million a year on physical security, including detailed digitized maps and photographs of all mall entrances, exits, utility controls and building plans for first-responder use, CEO Peter Lowy told the House Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection and Cybersecurity Sept. 7.

Westfield, which operated retail at the World Trade Center, has shared the databases with response agencies, but more coordination is needed.

"Effective evacuation will demand that the police can secure the routes, the city can provide potential medical relief if needed, and the state can provide transportation," Lowy said.

Katrina recovery keeps Harris busy

Engineers from systems integrator Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., have been on emergency duty on the Gulf Coast helping restore communications networks following Hurricane Katrina.

Harris said it has diverted 12 satellite communication terminals, originally headed for Africa, and deployed them in Mississippi and Louisiana. It also is providing numerous services and technologies including satellite phones, a broadcast television transmitters and microwave radio gear.

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