County Supervisors recently accepted the Annual Federal Homeland Security Grant and will use the money to buy new firefighting and communications equipment.
According to a County staff report, the Department of Homeland Security grant program awarded $354,800 to the County and six “projects” will be funded with that money.
Begun in 2002, the DHS Grant Program goes from DHS in Washington D.C., through the State Governor’s Offices down to the local levels. In California it goes through the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services or Cal OES. DHS, “provides grant funds for efforts such as planning for homeland security and other emergency operations, purchasing of specialized equipment in order to enhance the capability of local agencies responding to emergencies, and grant management and administration costs,” according to a County staff report.
Supervisors approved accepting the grant back in March and doled out the monies in December, after a committee went through the list of needs and prioritized the spending for this year. The “Homeland Security Grant Authorized Body” for this year consisted of: Sheriff Ian Parkinson, County Fire Chief Scotty Jalbert, Paso Robles Fire Chief Ken Johnson, AGPD Chief Steven Annabali (now retired), and SLO County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein.
The County Fire Department will get $156,186 to buy “a breathing support unit air compressor and scene lighting system,” according to the report. The lights and compressor will be mounted on an existing fire engine and stationed at the Templeton Fire Department but available to be used wherever it’s needed in SLO County.
“This breathing support unit, through mutual aid agreements, will enhance our Operational Area’s response capabilities by providing mobile high pressure breathing air cylinder refill capabilities and scene lighting in support of fire and hazardous materials response operations,” reads the report.
Some $99,000 will be used to buy 200 “Rave School Panic Button Alert Licenses” for school staff computers and smart phones that will alert school staff and 911 dispatch in the event of an active shooter or other incident. “This is part of the final phase of an ongoing 3-year plan to prepare for and respond to domestic terrorism events at schools,” according to the report, and the panic button program will be run through the Sheriff’s Office. The money will also buy a 3-year maintenance agreement.
The grant will provide some $41,000 to buy two, Portable Satellite Hotshot Terminals, gizmos that improve the Sheriff’s Department’s communications capabilities in the field. The County general fund will need to pitch in $4,900 to pay for the annual service contract starting in Fiscal Year 2020-21, according to the report.
The Sheriff’s Department is also getting $24,700 for a “Mobile Satellite Internet System” that “enables multi-user satellite Wi-Fi Internet and VoIP phone service for emergency responders in an area where landline and cellular phone service is unavailable.”
The Arroyo Grande Police Department will take possession of this equipment and also pay the annual service fee, which was not noted in the report.
The grant will pay some $14,800 for a “Photoionization detector,” according to the report, which is, a “4-gas air monitor, chemical classification kit, and a data service access device for hazardous materials assessment.” The County Public Health Department will keep this equipment for response anywhere in the county.
And finally, some $17,700 will be kept by the County Office of Emergency Services to pay for the “management and administration” of the grant.
The DHS grants are a byproduct of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. According to a Sept. 1 news release from DHS: “As part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s [DHS] ongoing efforts to support state, local, tribal, and territorial partners, Acting Secretary Elaine Duke today announced final allocations of $288 million for six Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 DHS competitive preparedness grant programs. These allocations, in addition to the more than $1.3 billion in non-competitive grant funding announced by DHS in June, total more than $1.6 billion in FY 2017 to assist states, urban areas, tribal and territorial governments, non-profit agencies, and the private sector with their preparedness efforts.”
Secretary Duke continued, “The Department of Homeland Security remains committed to supporting our partners in government and the private sector nationwide as we strengthen our ability to prepare for and respond to a variety of threats together. The threat environment today is continuing to evolve quickly, and these grants help our partners plan for and ready themselves against everything from natural disasters to terrorist attacks.
“Protecting the American people is a shared responsibility, and we must remain vigilant and ready to respond.”
By Neil Farrell