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Federal Aid to Help PA First Responders Fight Terrorism

March 29, 2002  | 

Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker announced that the U.S. Department of Justice has released an additional $5.7 million to Pennsylvania to purchase specialized personal-protection equipment for first responders under the state's Regional Counter-Terrorism initiative.

Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker said, "This funding brings the total now available to $7.4 million to buy protective clothing, respirators, air monitoring equipment and related equipment that improves the level of personal protection for designated firefighters, police officers, EMS units and specialized teams -- our first line of defense against terrorists."

Created in 1999, Pennsylvania's nine Regional Counter-Terrorism Task Forces provide a multi-county coordinated response structure, which allows emergency managers and first responders to develop localized plans and procedures to address terrorism-related events.

Pennsylvania's Director of Homeland Security Earl Freilino noted that following Sept. 11, the federal government recommended that states develop a regional approach to address the new homeland security requirements.

"Pennsylvania already had the regional task forces in place and was one of the first states to have our program needs identified and funding awarded," Freilino said. David Smith, Director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), added that Pennsylvania also is helping to set the national standard by implementing a new policy where the state is acting as the central purchasing agent on behalf of the individual task forces.

"In an effort to simplify a traditionally multi-agency function, the Governor has asked the Department of General Services to handle the paperwork with the various vendors in order to expedite and coordinate the purchasing process statewide," Smith said. "And while this federal funding was just released, we're already well along in placing orders to purchase the equipment needed to support our first responders."

Smith said that the federal Office of Domestic Preparedness funding is one of several funding sources that, over the next year, will help state and local governments to better prepare for terrorist incidents in our communities. "PEMA is working closely with Director Freilino and other key state agencies to coordinate and manage this essential preparedness process and get the needed resources in the hands of our local responders."

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