Regional Homeland Security Council plans area team
By Sparta Live | September 30, 2003 12:00 am
Kim Swindell Wood
After the terrorists’ attacks on 9/11, the President established a national office of Homeland Security, which eventually was followed by individual states establishing their own directors of Homeland Security. Now, White County has become a part of a strategically located security effort as a part of the Upper Cumberland Regional Homeland Security Council.
Federal funds have been set aside for the development of area homeland security councils. Emergency services personnel and representatives from a 15-county area met at Upper Cumberland Regional Airport on Friday to develop plans for a regional response team. The team will be comprised of specially trained technicians as well as back-up team members.
Randy Porter, Putnam County E-911 director, opened the meeting in lieu of chairman Chris Massengale. Porter said at least four people are needed from each county to be trained as technicians. “You know your own counties,” said Porter, to representatives from the Upper Cumberland. “You’re going to have to have local people willing to train.”
Sparta Fire Chief Ed Kay, who also serves on the Tennessee Homeland Security Council, said at least a minimum of 12 would be needed from each county, with four of those trained as technicians.
“We’ve got to know who’s going to be available on any given day,” said Kay. “It wouldn’t hurt to have 30. The funding is there to train these people.”
“If each county has its own team, they can go in and do rescue until the regional team arrives,” said Porter.
Porter said training for a technician requires 40 hours. One council member expressed concern about the commitment it would require since the teams would be comprised of volunteers.
“If local counties don’t commit, it won’t make any difference,” said Porter.
Kay reiterated Porter’s sentiments when one council member said “they’re just volunteers.” Kay was adamant that volunteers should be dedicated to any organization they serve. Otherwise, they should not volunteer.
Massengale took over the meeting upon his arrival and asked for discussion about who would “pick up” the on-going costs of the Regional Response Team once it was organized. The money currently appropriated by the federal government will be utilized for the purchase of equipment and training expenses and would soon be depleted.
Porter said there had been two committee meetings, which included planning and development and training and equipment.
He said one of the topics that came up during the training and equipment meeting was to encourage all first responders, police, firefighters and any emergency services personnel to attend an awareness class, which would teach the fundamentals of preparing and aiding in a disaster.
Kay said everyone present at the last regional council meeting stated they would schedule training as quickly as possible for their individual counties. Jerry Cole Sr., White County emergency management director, has already scheduled local classes, with the first segment completed Sept. 23, 2003, with 68 in attendance.
This two-part class is for all emergency services personnel, first responders and anyone directly involved with an emergency situation in the event of a local disaster. The first part of the class was “Weapons of Mass Destruction: Awareness Class,” and part two will be “Weapons of Mass Destruction: Operations Level Class,” 6-10 p.m., Sept. 30, 2003, at White County Courthouse, third floor courtroom. Willie Talley, area coordinator with Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), will be teaching the class.
In the planning and development committee meeting, Porter said members discussed possible locations for housing the equipment that will be purchased for the Regional Response Team. Porter had investigated several locations in Putnam County. However, only one of the locations possessed the greatest attributes for quick response time and security.
According to Porter, there is a building located behind the old National Guard Armory, in Cookeville, that belongs to the State of Tennessee, which is not currently being used for any specific purpose. Porter said this location would be excellent because of quick access to Highway 111 and Interstate 40. He said the Regional Council would need to talk with state officials and request the use of the building for storage of the Homeland Security equipment. Regional Council members voted to give Porter permission to pursue the matter.
The next meeting of the Upper Cumberland Regional Homeland Security Council will be at 9:30 a.m., Nov. 7, 2003, at Central Communications, in Cookeville. For more information in White County, call Sparta Fire Chief Ed Kay, 738-7380; Jerry Cole Sr., 761-3588; or Sparta Police Chief Jeff Guth, 836-3734.