Orange County has been awarded its annual $12.7 million Homeland Security grant for training law enforcement and other emergency personnel for a terrorist attack or disasters like earthquakes and fires, Rep. Loretta Sanchez said Thursday.
Building on the lessons learned from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the grants are intended to counter terrorism but at the same time provide useful tools in the event of natural disasters, said Santa Ana Police Cmdr. Ken Gominsky.
The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant is given to Santa Ana and Anaheim for use by the entire county. USAI grants are specifically intended for major metropolitan areas.
Gominsky is co-chair of the county board that allocates the grant. He said major past projects have included coordinating radio systems so all county emergency personnel can communicate with each other.
That, he said, was a lesson learned from 9-11 when incompatible radios meant New York police and fire fighters couldn’t talk to each other.
“We learned that lesson again in Katrina,” said Gominsky of the hurricane that devastated New Orleans. “We have to be able to talk if we hope to save lives.”
Another Orange County project financed with the grants, he said, helped beach cities increase their fire emergency equipment so that if they are cut off from outside help by an earthquake, they will be able to care for residents.
In another example, he said, a system has been created for distributing medicine, water, food and clothing at strategic stations around the county in case of emergency.
Training has been a big part of the program over the years, he said, with programs for all emergency personnel to attend classes taught the same way and covering the same topics “so when we come together (in a crisis), everybody speaks the same language.”
He said a criterion for funding a program is that it must benefit the entire county, not just a few cities.
“At a time when budget shortfalls and staff cuts have stretched resources for local law enforcement, UASI grants have been a real lifeline for our county,” said Sanchez, D-Garden Grove. “Nothing could be more important than protecting Orange County families against potential terrorist threats.”
Sanchez is vice chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, and she chairs the Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities.
— TRACY WOOD