BOSTON – First there was AMBER, now there’s SATURN. Wide-sweeping alert systems are the hot new weapon for a quick and effective response to criminal activity.
Statewide Anti-Terrorism Unified Response Network, or SATURN, is the first of its kind in the nation to fight terrorism. Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge has praised the program that has made its debut in Massachusetts, and involves federal, state and local emergency agencies to provide a unified response to terrorism.
State police are training local cops to do things they would not have dreamed of before Sept. 11, things they would have left to SWAT teams.
“You haven't got time to wait for a tactical team to respond,” said Lt. Cary Maroni, of the Mass. State Police. “You're going to need the first four patrol officers you have on the scene.”
The drills are part of this ground-breaking program that Ridge wants every other state to adopt. Massachusetts officials have been developing SATURN since the days after September 11th. to put the “home” in Homeland Security.
“Although we certainly love the CIA and FBI, in Massachusetts, we've taken a different approach,” James Jaguga, Mass. Sec. of Public Safety said.
SATURN was developed by the state’s Executive Office of Public Safety, and consists of Red (Fire), White (Emergency Management), and Blue (Police) anti-terrorism teams in every community across Massachusetts, according to the governor’s office.
On the top of the to-do list is sharing intelligence -- terrorist tips are traded among every arm of law enforcement, even campus police and jail wardens. If they do spot something suspicious, a statewide computer network for the first time gives officers in small towns experts to call for instruction.
“It's information we need to know down at the bottom level. We're the ones out on the streets that are going to be the first to respond to the job,” Kevin Patridge, of the Mass. Firefighter's Association said.
And along with the new concept comes new cutting-edge technology, such as wearable computers that allow cops to see floor plans of buildings before entering.
In the event of a biological or chemical attack, one of the biggest concerns is how to treat the contaminated victims without also contaminating the doctors and the hospital. The SATURN plan has a solution: Almost every fire department now has a portable decontamination unit to be set up outside hospitals.
Officials say that if the virgin operation in Massachusetts proves successful SATURN could be operational in 14 other states soon.
"The SATURN anti-terrorism plan will enlist the first line of defense, our local fire, emergency management, and police officials, in the war on terrorism,” Secretary of Public Safety James P. Jajuga said at a press conference.
“We think this plan will be a model for the rest of the nation."
Fox News' Amy C. Sims contributed to this report.