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Franklin County gets PEMA grants

July 07, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

Fighting terrorism has been the focus of homeland security efforts since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but federal funding now finding its way to counties also will help train and equip emergency personnel for more common natural and manmade disasters that can produce similar disruptions, according to Franklin County Emergency Services Director Jerry Flasher.

Franklin County last month received $43,206 in grants for three emergency response programs, with $36,415 earmarked for an update of its emergency operations plan, according to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). Another $4,820 has been set aside to help establish a community emergency response team (CERT), and $1,970 for a Citizens Corps council.

"It's a multi-hazard plan that covers A to Z," Flasher said of the emergency operations plan due later this year. The state allocated $3.4 million to Pennsylvania's 67 counties to update the plans to include "incidents of terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction," according to PEMA Director David M. Sanko.

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"It's about basic knowledge and common sense," Flasher said of the plan to establish CERT teams. "It's about teaching people in communities to help themselves and their neighbors between the event and the arrival of the first responders."

"In the event of a major disaster, emergency responders will be inundated with calls for service," Sanko said in announcing the grants last month. "Many people will be required to take care of themselves for a period of time before help can arrive, and the first step is to educate individuals on how to respond."

Flasher said that can involve training Neighborhood Watch, Reserve Police Corps, Reserve Medical Corps and other volunteers in the basics of responding to disasters. Forming a response team in the county still is in the planning stages, he said.

The CERT funding will be combined with the Citizens Corps money in Franklin County, according to Flasher. The intent of Citizens Corps is to bring together municipalities, police, fire, ambulance, emergency management and other groups to promote community preparedness and family safety, according to Sanko.

"The whole homeland security arena is really in it's infancy," Flasher said. Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the only experience with domestic terrorism that included massive casualties was the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, he said.

Citizens Corps and CERT will bring emergency preparedness down to the level of communities and individuals, Flasher said.

"The process has to begin from the bottom up," he said. Not only should people know what to do during an emergency, they should also be aware of threats to their safety.

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