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More than $1 million in grants benefiting local fire departments and law enforcement agencies have been awarded since the Sept. 11 tragedy.
While the grants may not necessarily be used to thwart terrorism, many have allowed departments to be better equipped and able to communication with each other better.
The largest grant came in 2009 when Grant County fire departments received $655,000 in federal funds to help purchase digital radios and equipment.
The communication systems allows the departments to meet compliance standards ahead of schedule and talk with federal, state and local authorities on one radio.
The funds come from an Assistance to Firefighters grant (AFG) through FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security.
The Grant County 911 Board matched $72,000 of the funds.
“Since the inception of the AFG program, which is the one that really targets fire, (grant funding) has bought a new engine for Dry Ridge, a new engine for Jonesville and replaced turnout gear in Corinth and Crittenden,” said Williamstown Fire Chief Les Whalen. “We’ve gotten a grant each year since 2003. All of those benefit every department in the county because we work together so well. Without that grant funding, we just wouldn’t have been able to get any of that stuff.”
“All in all, I’ve got well over $1 million that I have secured,” said Whalen, who is working on trying to get a grant for WFD for a new rescue pumper/brush truck.
Grant County Sheriff Chuck Dills said his office received a $30,000 grant to install mobile data computers in cruisers that allow deputies to run checks quicker.
Grants also have purchased two-way emergency digital radios and allowed the office to update the rest of their radio systems to meet digital compliance standards.
“We would have had to get the updated radios and computers, but it would have had to come from our budget,” Dills said. “It would have had a great impact on our budget if it wasn’t for the Homeland Security funds.”
“I think the funds allowed us to purchase the equipment to do our jobs better to watch for the alerts,” he said.
Dry Ridge Fire Chief Joe Jamison said most of his department’s Homeland Security and FEMA grants have been used for operational equipment.
DRFD received $106,858 in AFG funds with the largest portion of the grant used to install a diesel exhaust extraction system at the station to protect the health and safety of the firefighters.
A portion of the money also was used to purchase two new AED/heart monitors for paramedics in the department.
The smallest part of the grant was for an EMT class for Dry Ridge volunteer firefighters and other local firefighters.
“We have received some grants through the Homeland Security Department for operational stuff,” Jamison said. “But, regionally, Northern Kentucky has done really well with Homeland Security grants for equipment that we have access to.”
“I think, as Grant County grows, we are going to be more competitive to be able to receive grants,” he said. “I look at what Boone and Kenton County have received. They have large mass casualty trailers and HAZMAT response units that has been funded through grants. I think we’ll be able to see those types of things come to Grant County with growth.”
A more secure feeling of being safe has come with the added federal and state funding and increased training.
“I feel that we’re more prepared with the equipment and apparatus that we have to handle any type of attack that might be thrown at us,” said Whalen.
Dills said he feels a lot safer now because of the stricter security measures put in from courthouses to airports.
“Not that Grant County (Judicial Center) would be a target for a terrorist, but once you start tightening down security in the larger facilities then they’re going to start focusing in on the smaller facilities,” he said.
Jamison said he “absolutely” believes the county and country is safer than a decade ago.
“Knowing some of the things that we have been taught and the trainings we have received from various department like Homeland Security and the FBI trainings we have access to now, they have made a big difference,” he said. “The communication that has gone on between different agencies has made it a whole lot safer. If it wasn’t for those things, I think we would have seen other large-scale incidents”