In Washington state, homeland security efforts — from local police to border patrol — help protect the state’s international ports and international borderline. To keep the public safe from changing homeland security threats, Maria has fought to ensure that Washington’s first responders personnel have the technology and equipment necessary to communicate quickly during emergencies. Maria has continually worked to bolster security both along the northern border and the coastline and to improve passenger rail security for the Amtrak Cascades route and nationwide.

In 2009 the National Emergency Management Association awarded Maria with the organization’s Congressional Award for her leadership on northern border security and emergency preparedness in the state of Washington.

“Senator Cantwell has not only been very responsive on emergency management issues when we call on her, and we have many times with great success, she has been proactive in advising and collaborating with us on the initiatives she has worked on for the state,” said Jim Miller, Director, Washington State Emergency Management Division. “This award is well deserved, and we look forward to our continued collaboration.”

Maria championed legislation through the Senate in 2006 requiring the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to work with the U.S. State Department, the Federal Communications Commission and the states of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska to develop a regional plan for interoperable communications in the run-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. The combined effort resulted in the largest-ever test of North American federal security coordination for a major border event. First responders on both sides of the border are now able to take advantage of improved communications in their day-to-day operations.

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As a Senator for a coastal state, Maria is focused on protecting the economy and security of Washington’s ports.  As part of a 2006 port security package, Maria helped secure critical provisions to protect Washington state, including a new pilot program to develop radiation detection technology to scan containers loaded directly onto rail cars from cargo ships. Maria also fought to include provisions in the 2006 port security package that accelerated the Coast Guard’s inspection of foreign ports that ship cargo to the United States.

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The Amtrak Cascades route is the eighth highest ridership passenger rail route in the entire nation, providing a critical economic link between Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, and other points along the I-5 corridor. Reducing border delays on the Amtrak Cascades route has been a priority of Maria’s.  Maria authored an amendment to ensure that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its Canadian counterparts worked together to pre-clear passengers traveling from Canada to the United States, reducing cumbersome border inspections. That amendment and a joint and sustained effort by the Washington Congressional delegation, state government and advocates laid the groundwork for the inclusion of a preclearance agreement in the Beyond the Border Action Plan, which was announced in December 2011 by President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Under the agreement, the U.S. government will work with the Canadian government and other stakeholders to develop a comprehensive approach for pre-clearance of southbound Amtrak Cascades passengers, improving clearance rules to make train schedules more reliable and security more efficient.

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