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Archive for Monday, July 17, 2006

Grant provides rescue tools

July 17, 2006

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Thanks to the latest Homeland Security grant, Douglas County will be adding new rescue and law enforcement equipment to its emergency and public service inventories.

At the top of the list is a search-and-rescue strut system that will allow emergency workers to more quickly shore up a building collapse similar to what happened in June when the 100-year-old Elks Lodge building in Clinton, Mo., collapsed. One person was killed and nine were rescued in that incident.

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical will store the equipment for use anywhere in the county. It is an addition to some equipment the department already has that could be used for a variety of collapses, including trench and crane.

"This is more of a mechanical-type strut system that is more quickly deployed," Fire & Medical Chief Mark Bradford said.

In the case of a major building collapse as in Clinton, outside help would still be needed, Bradford said. An emergency team with heavy rescue equipment would be brought in from Kansas City.

"This will help us fill the void while that team is being assembled, which could take hours," he said.

Variety of benefits

Grants totaling $146,860 for that and other equipment mean the county has received about $1 million worth of equipment through Homeland Security since the terrorist attacks of 9-11, Emergency Management Director Paula Phillips said.

Since Homeland Security funding began, the county has obtained a variety of equipment, including atmospheric monitoring instruments for detecting chemical and biological problems, decontamination tents and breathing apparatus and mobile data terminals.

How the grants are invested is determined by more than 30 county first-responder agencies that include rural fire departments as well as police agencies. A security strategy was developed to emphasize obtaining equipment that benefits the greatest number of agencies.

The strut system will take about $28,000 of the grant money. Another $33,000 will be used to stockpile protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns. This is equipment that emergency services in Douglas County use regularly, but there has been no central stockpile available to all the services in a major emergency, Phillips and Bradford said.

In addition, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office will order a new fingerprint system and walk-through metal detector for the jail. The equipment will be purchased with $44,385 through the Law Enforcement Terrorism Protection fund, which is one of the funding programs that fall under Homeland Security.

The fingerprint system is a newer and better version of what the jail has had, Jail Division Undersheriff Ken Massey said. The metal detector is more sensitive than the older version, he said.

Grants diminishing

Homeland Security grants are administered through the Kansas Highway Patrol. The federal government actually started offering security grants in 1999, prior to 9-11, and before the Homeland Security Department was organized. Most of the equipment, however, didn't start coming in until after the terrorist attacks.

Since 1999, Kansas has received a total of $98.38 million. The highest amount allocated to the state was more than $28.84 million in 2004. The amount has since declined, to $21.78 million in 2005 and $14.27 million in 2006.

While overall Homeland Security grants have declined nationwide, more money has gone to some of the larger cities.

"With diminished funds, they wanted to make sure they were putting the funds where the greatest need was," KHP Capt. Mark Bruce said.

Other counties also are capitalizing on Homeland Security grants.

Franklin County also has received nearly $1 million worth of equipment through the grants. Nearly half of that went toward radio communications improvements in 2004, Emergency Management Director Alan Radcliffe said.

"We totally redid our communications system," he said. "You can now talk on portable radio anywhere in the county. That was a major problem."

Also purchased were a command post trailer, hazardous materials and improved rescue equipment, Radcliffe said. Generators for the emergency room at Ottawa's Ransom Memorial Hospital and the county's emergency communications center are currently on order, he said.

"It's all money that was needed to purchase things that we couldn't get with local tax money," Radcliffe said.

Jefferson County's grants have totaled about $200,000 since 9-11, emergency services director Don Haynes said. It, too, has been used for better radios, decontamination equipment, air pack refilling equipment, generators and lights.

Comments

rousseau108 8 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, really seems like "pork." Remember that if you're in the hospital hooked to a ventilator the next time a "microburst" comes through and knocks out all the power. It's great that everyone expects the police and other gov't agencies to do everything for them but don't want to actually support them and provide the equipment and resources needed to do it.

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