Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Homeland Security Grant Announcement

Today, the Department of Homeland Security announced the release of $1.8 billion in various homeland security grant programs. Often the release of this type of funding results in the perception that there is a "lot of money" up for grabs among local emergency response agencies.

While $1.8 billion is a lot of money, it might be beneficial to talk briefly about what homeland security funding does for our community at the local level.

There are two basic types of funding that go to local emergency response agencies: State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) and Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grants.

1) SHSP funds are awarded to established "preparedness regions" within the State of Washington. Clark County is part of Region 4 which is additionally comprised of Cowlitz, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties. These 4 counties have met on a regular basis since 2004 to implement regional preparedness projects. SHSP-funded projects have included:
  • Enhanced interoperable communications for emergency responders,
  • Regional Emergency Community Notification System which provides telephone-based alerts to geographic areas that are experiencing a hazardous situation,
  • Regional information-sharing system to enhance collaboration between the field and Emergency Operations Center environments,
  • Training and specialized equipment for special capability teams like Technical Rescue, SWAT, Bomb Squads, Urban Search and Rescue, and HAZMAT teams,
  • Incident Command System training for police, fire, public works, public health and emergency management programs,
  • Exercises that test connectivity, coordination and response among disciplines,
  • Public Education activities and training for volunteers and citizen preparedness organizations, and
  • Staffing support for Emergency Management and the Region IV office.

2) Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) funding provides support to Clark County along with 4 counties in Oregon (Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington and Columbia) as surrounding counties to the "urban" City of Portland. The goal is to prepare our local responders and develop regional response plans to ensure a quality response anywhere within the urban footprint.

To that end, UASI funding is distributed to a wide variety of discipline groups towards regional projects that focus on planning, training, equipment, exercise, and organizational efforts. The benefits of working with our Urban Area partners include a number of tangible enhancements and developing relationships with other jurisdictions in advance of the crisis.

The funds announced today by the Department of Homeland Security will take some time to arrive locally. We must now embark on efforts to specify how the funds will be spent and await contract signatures with all of the involved partner agencies. We will likely see these funds available here early in 2010.

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