Oklahoma communities getting $25 million


Tuesday, July 29th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Local communities in Oklahoma are getting $25 million in federal funds to bolster homeland security.

The announcement was made Tuesday by Gov. Brad Henry and Bob Ricks, Oklahoma homeland security director.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the Office of Domestic Prepardedness.

Ricks said his office worked hard to meet federal deadlines and secure the funds as soon as possible.

Congress passed the appropriation in April and checks were going out to Oklahoma communities this month, he said.

``The deadlines placed upon us by the federal government were challenging but we believe we are one of the few states to have turned around the funds so quickly,'' Ricks said.

The Governor's Committee on Homeland Security Funding reviewed the applications and made recommendations to the governor on how they would be allocated.

The recommendations were based upon the creation of a statewide response plan to weapons of mass destruction or a hazardous materials incident.

Most of the money will go toward implementing the First Responder Equipment Program in eight regions across the state. The program will provide equipment to state and local governments which will have trained responders.

The goal is to increase the state's capability for an all-hazards response to a terrorist attack or other man-made or natural disaster.

Officials said the cornerstone of the program is the distribution of response trailers.

``This is a new approach to the building of response capabilities,'' said Ricks, who also is the state's public safety commissioner. ``Instead of expecting each city to develop their own response, we are developing cooperative response efforts.

``This process allows communities to come together, train together and share equipment before an incident occurs.''

The trailers will be geared toward responding to incidents on three levels.

``The varying levels of trailers allow us to increase our capabilities in urban and rural parts of our state _ sharing valuable resources and personnel,'' Ricks said.

Recalling Okahomans' response to the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, Henry said Oklahoma should be the nation's model on homeland security.

``After 1995, the Oklahoma Standard was established and continues to be the benchmark against which all efforts are measured,'' Henry said. ``It is a high standard we are expected to meet but we as Oklahomans as always are up to the challenge.''