If a biological threat hits Grovetown, the city's first responders want to be ready.
The Grovetown Department of Public Safety has been awarded a Phase One Homeland Security Grant of $23,000 for equipment to combat terroristic acts.
"Our agency is quite small, but being public safety we have to get involved of all aspects of emergency response, including dealing with weapons of mass destruction and mass preparedness for biological agents," said Public Safety Capt. Gary Owens.
Public-safety officials submitted the $23,000 federal grant request a month ago and it has since been approved by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Area Three All Hazards Council. The All Hazards Council is a group of emergency-response professionals in a 25-county area, including Columbia County, who review grant applications and make recommendations to the state.
The money will be used to buy self-contained breathing equipment, anthrax test kits, hazardous material-resistant gloves and boots, special preparedness suits, and hazardous material, gas and chemical agent detectors.
The Grovetown Department of Public Safety will use a $23,000 Homeland Security grant to improve its ability to respond to emergencies.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"What we're trying to do is establish a hazmat unit," Owens said. "We already have officers here that are (hazmat) certified. That was the first step. We don't want to take anything away from the county. We want to work with them. We follow in (Columbia County EMA Director Pam Tucker's) footsteps. We want to be equally prepared if something happens on this end."
Before receiving the Phase One grant money, Owens already has applied for Phase Two funds. He said he hopes to receive an additional $30,000 to purchase a truck and trailer to haul the new equipment.
The idea of a Grovetown hazmat team is not as farfetched as many might think, Owens said.
"Aside from Richmond County, we're the next closest agency to Fort Gordon, a potential target for terrorist attack," he said. "Also, our city is growing by leaps and bounds. At last count, our population is 8,000. That will probably grow to 10,000 or 12,000 next year."
Owens said he lives by the philosophy of getting something while the getting's good.
"If the government is going to spend all this money to make us as a nation prepared, then let's go for it," he said. "If you get this (equipment) in the hands of first responders, the possibility increases that lives will be saved."
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