State officials describe homeland security spending

HARRISBURG, Pa., 8 March 2005. Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director Adrian R. King, Jr., today briefed the media on federal Homeland Security funding and first-responder equipment purchased by the Commonwealth's nine Regional Counter Terrorism Task Forces (RCTTFs).

HARRISBURG, Pa., 8 March 2005. Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director Adrian R. King, Jr., today briefed the media on federal Homeland Security funding and first-responder equipment purchased by the Commonwealth's nine Regional Counter Terrorism Task Forces (RCTTFs).

The state concentrates spending in four areas:

-- Basic Personal Protective Equipment;
-- Basic Detection and Decontamination Equipment;
-- Interoperable and Enhanced Communications Systems; and
-- Advanced Level Equipment, Supplies and Training for Regional Specialized Response Teams.

Funding priorities and equipment purchasing decisions for the Commonwealth are made in accordance with the State Homeland Security Assessment and Strategy that was completed in 2003 and is scheduled for update and review in 2006.

King was joined by Jonathan A. Duecker, Director of the PA Office of Homeland Security; Robert A. Full, Director of the Allegheny County Emergency Management Agency and Chairman of the Southwestern/Region 13 Task Force; and Evalyn Fisher, Director of PEMA's Bureau of Planning and Training.

"During the past six years, more than $200 million in homeland security funds have been distributed to the nine RCTTFs and to state public safety agencies," King said. "These funds have made possible significant improvements in all-hazards preparedness and emergency response capabilities across the Commonwealth."

Homeland security grant money is disbursed through PEMA in its capacity as the State Administrative Agency, to each of the RCTTFs and various state agencies. The task force model was adopted in 1998 by Governor Tom Ridge, and continued by Governor Rendell. Funds are distributed through the RCTTFs based on the following risk criteria: threat, vulnerability, location of critical infrastructure, population and needs.

"The RCTTF structure promotes regionalism, mutual aid and equipment standardization," said Duecker. "More importantly, the RCTTF model puts decision making and the tools of prevention and first response into the hands of the people who know how to respond the best -- county and local law enforcement and first responders."

According to Full, the RCTTF structure and the homeland security funding received by the Region 13 Task Force have significantly improved all-hazards preparedness in southwestern Pennsylvania.

He reviewed two recent events that demonstrate improved emergency response capabilities. In January 2005, a train derailed in West Deer Township, Allegheny County. Three rail tank cars containing toxic chemicals were involved. Those first responders arriving on the scene used chemical detection equipment and personal protective gear purchased with homeland security funds to respond quickly to the accident. The second example involved tropical storm Ivan in September 2004 when hundreds of Allegheny county residents were trapped in homes, buses and cars due to flash flooding.

"The RCTTF concept quickly allowed other counties to deliver rescue boats and specialized equipment to minimize the loss of life," Full recalled.

For more information, see www.pema.state.pa.us or www.homelandsecurity.state.pa.us.

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