U.S. Discussing Postponing Presidential Elections Due to Threats

As U.S. officials discuss the possibility of postponing Election Day in the event of a terrorist attack on or about that day, one expert claims officials aren't seeing the forest for the trees.

Members of Congress are debating with the Department of Homeland Security on whether or not changing the Nov. 2 election is excessive or part of a prudent effort to plan for "doomsday scenarios." This issue follows an earlier announcement that al Qaeda terrorists are planning a large-scale attack on the United States this summer. Other potential targets include the upcoming Democratic and Republican presidential conventions, as well as the Olympics in Athens, Greece.

"Regardless of the nature of the threat, we must make every effort to be proactively prepared with the right training, the right tools and the right techniques to keep our officials and our citizenry safe," said James W. Noe, president of Homeland Defense Solutions and senior policy advisor to the U.S. State Department, Office of Diplomatic Security. Noe says that regardless of larger threat scenerios, "Municipalities need to empower their law enforcement and fire professionals with the right tools they need to safely evacuate the most people and secure the perimeter of a scene."

Noe says the right tools for the job are the tools that provide adequate protection in the event of an emergency, not overprotection. For example, says Noe, most municipal budgets for homeland defense, about 95 percent of the budget, is spent on a very small minority of responders who are actually going in to the "hot zone." Instead, what Noe suggests is that the funding be balanced and used to safely evacuate a higher percentage of citizens, and protect a larger number of first responders who are responsible for getting citizens out of a situation and keeping them out.

Noe says there are product available on the market that are affordable and offer personal protection to both citizens and first responders. One such product, called the EDR Kit, stands for egress, deconcontamination and redress. Egress is for evacuation and provides dermal protection; Decontamination (because certain instances require disrobing) provides a garment bag, a valuables bag, a modesty garment and a disposable towel; and the redress is what it says; it allows for the victim of an incident to replace their garments.

Other similar kits are available that provide enhanced dermal protection for first responders who are not entering the "hot zone" and don't need that level of protection.

Empowerment is a key issue, says Noe. The police and fire are the first responders to a situation or incident, but going in without the right protection is dangerous. "The vast majority of the budget is spent on those going in to a situation, as opposed to providing proper protection to get people out and to safely equip our police and fire so a large number may be protected during evac and perimeter control," says Noe. "These are the folks on the front lines and with millions of dollars of UASI funding coming available for cities throughout the United States, those on the front lines need to have a voice in getting the protection they need to take care of themselves and the community in the event of a disaster.

Noe has worked with federal agencies for a decade, including managing the threat and vulnerability assessment of 241 U.S. embassies as a member of the elite Special Operations Division. He has completed over 100 Secret Service missions involving leading and performing assessments and taking appropriate actions directed at protecting the President of the United States and other VIPS from explosive and chemical threats, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

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