Thursday, August 28, 2003
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, may seem far from Routt County, but the risk of future attacks is not, county officials say.
That's why they welcomed the roughly $138,000 they received in federal grants for homeland security. The grants were announced by Gov. Bill Owens on Wednesday.
Routt County's share of an additional $19 million received by Colorado's cities and counties will go toward personal protection equipment for the county's emergency responders, Routt County Emergency Services Director Chuck Vale said.
Emergency responders include people involved with law enforcement, fire service, emergency medicine, the county coroner, emergency management, environmental health, the drug task force, county commissioners, the county manager and county dispatchers.
With the help of the grant, those people should be equipped with gas masks, rubber suits and gloves, and other gear that would allow them to continue to work in the case of a biological or chemical attack.
"(We) said if something was that bad within this county, we need to keep those people healthy in order to go on," Vale said.
Vale said the county created a list of homeland security needs that totaled about $400,000. Those needs included protection equipment as well as detection equipment.
With the $23,000 the county received from federal grants last year, the county is more than $140,000 short of what is needed to meet all its needs.
That shortage will be felt in the county's inability to buy some of the detection equipment, which typically is expensive, Vale said.
When the Office of Homeland Security asks for grants again next year, Vale said he likely will resubmit what remains on the list.
The funds the county received will be useful, Vale said.
"It truly protects the first responders in a chemical or biological event," he said.
The anthrax mailings that took place after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 easily could have hit Routt County, he said.
"That anthrax in that dusty letter could have been in every mailbox of every office in the United States," he said. "That could have been in Routt County. So therefore, we need to protect the first responders."
Routt County Sheriff John Warner agreed and said that the federal government encouraged smaller cities to be on the lookout for terrorist attacks because after attacking a major city, terrorists could easily look to a smaller one.
"How do you know where they're going to hit you next?" Warner said.
The funds will provide necessary protection for a worst-case scenario, he said, such as an anthrax-contaminated building.
"You can't just walk in that building without some safety equipment," Warner said. "You can't do an initial response without the tools ... because then you're just endangering lives."