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Homeland Security grant delivers nearly $300,000

August 22, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County received nearly $278,000 in federal Homeland Security dollars, money that will equip every city and county police officer with protective clothing should they ever have to respond to chemical or other weapons of mass destruction attacks, Emergency Services Director Joe Kroboth said Thursday.

The county's $277,929 State Homeland Security Grant, awarded under a program established by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is in addition to the $117,927 grant the county received in the spring.

Kroboth said by phone he knew the county would receive additional grant money, but he wasn't expecting such a large amount.

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"That's one of the biggest grants we've ever pulled in," Kroboth said.

Don Lumpkins of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, the agency overseeing the State Homeland Security Grant Program, did not return a phone call placed to his office Thursday afternoon.

Kroboth said the money also will be used to purchase safety and detection equipment and to equip all fire departments and rescue companies with at least four protective suits.

The county also will make available a trailer containing 50 to 100 additional protective suits to be used as needed during emergency calls.

The protective clothing will keep crews safe from such agents as anthrax and sarin, Kroboth said.

"If we do have an unfortunate incident, we'll have the basics to respond," Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said. "It's a big help. That's a big chunk of change."

He said the department's current protective clothing is intended more for biohazard emergencies than for biological warfare.

In addition to the protective clothing, police officers will receive protective breathing gear, which will replace outdated gas masks the department has, Smith said.

Money from the first grant paid for protective equipment and clothing for the combined city and county Special Operations Team, also known as the S.W.A.T. team.

The money was awarded based on a formula that took into account risk, population and the number of federal facilities and chemical plants in the state.

Smith said he was relieved that police will be receiving the protective gear.

"I'm glad it's finally come to pass," he said. "We've been waiting quite a while."

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