Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica City Council to Consider Homeland Security Grant
By Jason Islas
September 9, 2013 -- The City Council Tuesday will consider accepting a $99,378 grant from the federal government to help prep Santa Monica's fire department for the possibility of a terrorist attack.
Since 2009, as part of the Department of Homeland Security's Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), Santa Monica has regularly received federal funds to assure that its emergency response teams have state-of-the-art equipment and training necessary to handle a terrorist attack or natural disaster.
“We get these grants fairly regularly and they are targeted to enhancing regional preparedness in metropolitan areas,” said Assistant City Manager Elaine Polachek.
Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the country, shares a border with Santa Monica, and as a result, the federal agency has identified the region as a priority for funding homeland security initiatives.
“L.A. County is currently the second largest recipient for homeland security grant funds,” said Fire Chief Scott Ferguson. “These dollars are managed through the Los Angeles City Mayor’s Office.”
Ferguson noted that UASI grants can total as much $50 million a year. That amount is then divided between public safety agencies throughout the county, including fire departments, law enforcement agencies, emergency management and the health department.
“Over the past several years, the Santa Monica Fire Department has been fortunate to play a significant role in determining how the pie has been divided,” he said.
In 2009, Santa Monica's police and fire departments divided $442,442 in grant money. Since then, the fire department and Santa Monica's Office of Emergency Management -- established in 2011 -- have received another $156,814 through the program.
Without that money, Ferguson said, the fire department wouldn't be able to fund some its special operations.
“This has allowed us to enhance interoperability with our mutual aid partners, provide our firefighters with contemporary tools, monitors, and equipment, and train them in the latest techniques related to hazardous materials (HazMat) and urban search and rescue (USAR),” Ferguson said.
Michael McElvaney, former captain of Santa Monica's Hazardous Materials Response team, said that money from the federal grants have gone to pay for the City's HazMat vehicle and the materials required to use it effectively.
Since the inception of the Department of Homeland Security's grant program in 2001, Santa Monica has received more than $4 million to purchase equipment, supplies and fund training “in direct support of overall regional goals to promote effective information gathering, sharing and response to threats and/or acts of terrorism,” according to staff.
Ferguson added that Santa Monica has also benefited from the Department of Homeland Security's State Homeland Security Grant Program.
However, compared to the UASI program, that pool of funds is much smaller, with roughly $15 million a year coming into the state, he said.
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