From upgraded radios to training, equipment and trucks, area departments have seen the benefits of federal Homeland Security grants over the past decade.
Since 2001, Washington County has been awarded $2.65 million in federal Homeland Security grants, according to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.
The funding is designed to build capabilities at the local level for coordination of law enforcement and emergency responders. The Ohio EMA reported more than $200 million has been spent statewide in the past decade.
Washington County EMA Director Jeff Lauer said a significant amount of local grant money has been poured into improving radio systems.
"Every local fire and police department has either received new radios or had radios reprogrammed so we can communicate with each other more effectively in event of a major event," Lauer said.
Lauer said $800,000 in federal funding was spent on improving communications systems, including new radios and other equipment. Other big-ticket items have included a chemical decontamination tent and decontamination equipment for local hospitals and first responders.
Federal Homeland Security grant awards to Washington County:
2001-2006: $2.35 million.
Total: $2.65 million.
Source: Ohio Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management Agency.
Lauer said Homeland Security funding also allowed the agency to purchase a 24-foot truck trailer that contains equipment for hazardous material responses as well as field communications and other equipment.
"It's equipment the county probably couldn't have afforded to go after on its own," Lauer said. "As for the decontamination trailer and equipment - with the chemical plants we have around it's probably something we needed to have."
Lauer said area departments have been able to secure grants to pay for everything from training to new trucks.
"Every department has benefited from these grants," he said. "We're all better prepared now than we were 10 years ago - not just for a terrorist attack but for any disaster."
Troy Eddleblute, chief of the Barlow Volunteer Fire Department, said his department has received $17,000 in grants.
"We purchased new heart monitors, backboards and head blocks for the backboards," Eddleblute said. "We had applied for money for a truck and we stayed in until the very end but the money didn't come though and we ended up spending our own money."
Warren Volunteer Fire Chief Mark Wile said the department has been awarded $60,000 for equipment and another $33,000 grant is pending.
"Our first grant was for $15,000 and it allowed us to get advanced firefighter training for several of our members," Wile said. "The next grant was $45,000 which allowed us to get new Scott Air Packs for our trucks."
The air packs are portable tanks firefighters wear on their backs that hold breathable oxygen. The tanks cost about $5,500 each.
The grant Warren has pending would be used to purchase a boat for the department.
"We don't have a boat but we have several chemical plants in our service area along the river," Wile said. "Having a boat could be helpful, especially if we have issues there or with a barge."
Wile said his department has had occasion to respond to the river for reports of boaters or barge workers who have been injured or become ill.
Wile said he feels the county is better prepared because of increased training and better equipment.