With the nation approaching the first anniversary of last Septembers terrorist attacks, governors from across the South have unveiled a plan to link their health and emergency agencies to better coordinate response and relief efforts.
"This project could be the most important thing that we do as governors. By working together to create this network, we will be making our region more secure against terrorist threats and will set the standard for the rest of the country," said Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist (D), the lead governor for the project.
The announcement came Monday (8/26) during the second day of the annual Southern Governors Association conference in New Orleans.
The network will use video-conferencing technology to connect state public health agencies, state emergency management command centers, national resources like the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 36 other health organizations in the Southern states.
The task force in charge of the project estimates it will cost $34 million to get the network up and running and will take roughly 24 months to fully implement it. Annual operating costs will run over $13 million.
The nine governors at the meeting Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster (R), Missouri Gov. Bob Holden (D), Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist (R), Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton (D), West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise (D), Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D), Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) approved the project.
Last year's meeting, which was held in Lexington, Kentucky, was cut short by the terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. The governors and their staffs had to rush home via bus and van after air travel was restricted.
The keynote speaker for today's session was former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who urged the governors to be ready for anything.
"If you're prepared for every emergency you can think of, even if you have an emergency that happens, an attack, a terrorist attack, that you haven't anticipated completely, you will be much better prepared for it," said Giuliani.
The former mayor thanked the governors for the outpouring of support that followed the attacks of Sept. 11.
"Without exception, every state in this country helped us, assisted us, sent people to us, sent us equipment and sent us support. It meant a great deal, and it was critical to the people of New York being able to get through this," he said.