Archive for Sunday, February 4, 2007

Study: State’s emergency equipment low

February 4, 2007

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A recent federal study of state National Guards confirmed what many Guard leaders already knew: Their equipment for responding to state emergencies is low.

The Kansas Guard has only 50.6 percent of its authorized "dual-use" equipment available to nondeployed units, according to the study issued in January by the Governmental Accountability Office.

Duel-use equipment includes helicopters, radios, medical supplies and transports. It is equipment that is used in fighting a war and in responding to domestic emergencies. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are cutting into that equipment supply, the report said.

"The 50 percent is accurate, but there are some pieces of equipment, like Blackhawk helicopters, where we don't even have 50 percent of the equipment," Kansas Guard spokeswoman Sharon Watson said.

Also in short supply are heavy equipment trailers and the big trucks that pull them, Watson said.

Most states are in a similar condition when it comes to equipment, the GAO found. Neighboring states Missouri and Oklahoma have 52 percent and 55 percent of their equipment available, respectively. Nebraska and Arkansas are slightly lower, at 46 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

New Mexico (33 percent) and Virginia (39 percent) had the lowest dual-use supplies, the GAO found.

Earlier this winter, the Kansas Guard sent troops and equipment - including helicopters - to areas of Kansas hit by ice storms.

"If a second storm had hit requiring as much support, or if we had multiple things occurring at one time, it would have been a challenge for us," Watson said.

The GAO study also cited a need for better planning among state Guards for responding to calls from other states during a time of multiple disasters or terrorist incidents. The Kansas Guard leaders, however, think the National Guards did well in sending troops and equipment to the Gulf of Mexico states after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005.

"We are also working with the Mid America Regional Council on plans for Kansas and Missouri in the Kansas City area because there are so many jurisdictions there," Watson said.

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