States get $3.6B for emergency preparation

"DHS Announces $1.7 Billion in Homeland Security Grants"

State and local governments received nearly $3.6 billion in federal fiscal 2007 funding this week for counterterrorism, emergency preparedness and interoperable communications.

The Homeland Security Department announced July 18 allocations of $1.7 billion in training, equipment and planning monies going to states and cities based on risk assessments. Of the total, $411 million is to be dedicated to the New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston urban areas because they are considered at the highest risk for attack.

Also July 18, DHS and the Commerce Department jointly announced distribution of $968 million in grants to states and territories to help public safety agencies buy and deploy interoperable communications systems for voice, data and video. Congress established the one-time Public Safety Interoperable Communications Grants in 2005 to allocate proceeds anticipated from an upcoming federal auction of radio spectrum.

In a third federal grant program, Health and Human Services Department officials announced emergency preparedness and pandemic flu planning grants totaling $897 million to state and local public health departments. The program is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The almost $3.6 billion in recent preparedness-related grants will pay for equipment, training and planning, including some information technology-related systems and devices. For the homeland security grant programs, that typically has included spending on items such as mobile communications vans, command and control centers and networks, information-sharing networks, public alert systems and first-responder emergency communications.

For the public health programs, funding has included computer networking, symptom surveillance systems and communications systems. However, for the first time, up to 25 percent of the money for the six most at-risk urban areas may pay for operations personnel.

The “Homeland Security Grant Program is an important DHS funding mechanism for building and sustaining preparedness capabilities across the nation,” DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said. “Our goal is to effectively manage risk in a way that lessens the vulnerability of the entire country, while preparing the nation to respond effectively to major catastrophes.”

Federal officials released grant guidance and an application kit for the interoperable communications grants. Applications are due in 30 days, and grants will be awarded by Sept. 30 as required by the Call Home Act of 2006. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is working with the agencies on the program.

“When disaster strikes, first responders must have the tools to communicate,” Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said. “Under this streamlined program, states will be given grants to use technology that will make our cities and states safer.”

Separately, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced July 17 public health funding for all-hazards preparedness and response. The funding includes:
  • $175 million for pandemic flu preparedness.
  • $57.3 million for the Cities Readiness Initiative, in which the cities must prepare caches of oral medications.
  • $35 million to poison control centers.
  • $5.4 million for public health programs in border states for the detection, investigation and reporting of infectious diseases that pose public health risks.
Alice Lipowicz writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

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