County awaits funding for anti-terrorism needs
Prince William County will soon receive its fair share $4.3 million of emergency preparedness money from the federal government because of its assistance at the Pentagon on Sept. 11.
The money will be used to beef up the county’s police and fire and rescue operations to ready it in case of another terrorist attack.
More than $1.8 million will go to the department of fire and rescue for a new hazardous materials unit; for equipment that can detect chemical, biological and nuclear agents; for protective clothing and gear for firefighters and for mass decontamination units for the public.
The Prince William County Police Department would receive almost $1.8 million as well and would use it for a new command vehicle that operates as a field-staging area for emergency incidents, such as the train derailment in Gainesville a couple months ago; and for protective clothing and gear and hazardous materials training for police officers.
“We’ve spent a lot of time reviewing what we’ve experienced in the last 10 years and tried to acquire those things that would be most useful, not just in a terrorist attack, but in the course of our normal operations,” said John Medici, hazardous materials coordinator for the county with the department of fire and rescue.
About $180,000 will be used for a new hazardous materials truck for the fire department to replace a 1979 donated beer truck that was converted. The truck is used to contain spills, build dikes and dams and absorb hazardous waste.
The new truck will also be equipped with thermal imaging and other sophisticated chemical detection devices that will allow rescue workers to easily identify the substances with which they are dealing.
In addition, five paid fire personnel will be trained as state Hazmat technicians.
“They about wore us out with all the anthrax responses in October and November, and we recognized at that time that we needed more trained people, more specialized people,” Medici said. He and Gary Gesling, Hazmat captain, received about 400 calls of possible anthrax in the fall and had no equipment that could help them easily and quickly identify powders.
For $60,000, the county will also be acquiring mass decontamination equipment hot water heaters and tents so hundreds of people could be run through and cleaned up in the event of a catastrophe before being sent to a hospital or home.
Three hundred sets of additional firefighting gear would be purchased for $400,000 so that firefighters who are contaminated while on duty would have a change of clothes to continue responding to emergencies.
The Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department would receive $625,000, of which $360,000 has already been used, to buy a firefighting and rescue boat, with equipment and supplies.
“We get about 100 calls a year for brush fires and other fires and there are millions of dollars of registered boats in our jurisdiction,” said Jim McAllister, assistant chief for OWL.
The county’s main command center at the McCoart Administration Center off Prince William Parkway would also receive an infusion of cash for new phones and other communications equipment.
The center has its own water and electric generator, so department heads could mass there and operate independently in case of an emergency.
The funds for counter-terrorism are made available through the Department of Defense and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill signed into law last December.
“It’s almost a no-brainer to figure there will be another event in the capital, and if something happens in D.C. we will be up there again,” Medici said.