The mission statement of the Department of Homeland Security is
to fight terrorism using coutner surveillance measures. But the
department also helps out localities like Ann Arbor financially, in
order to prepare them for emergencies unrelated to terrorism.

Ann Arbor will receive $673,939 in federal homeland security
grants this year, out of $62 million that the state of Michigan
will receive and distribute to the state’s 104 local
emergency networks. Ann Arbor’s share of the state’s
homeland security grant has more than doubled since 2003,
reflecting a substantial increase in the department’s budget
since last year.

Lt. Myron Blackwell, Ann Arbor’s director of emergency
management, said the Department of Public Safety will receive an
unspecified amount for equipment and training after all the of the
needs of the Ann Arbor Police Department have been met by the State
Homeland Security Grant Program.

DPS does not receive independent homeland security grants
because the department does not currently administer funds to
universities. And the AAPD needs the money more than the University
does because DPS has more resources to begin with, Blackwell
said.

“The University has a lot of resources — biologists,
researchers, radiologists, hazardous material trucks and the
Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health —
that we could use in the case of a disaster,” Blackwell said.
“We work very well together.”

“We’re happy to receive this money,” Blackwell
added. But it is still early in the decision-making process on how
to allocate the funds. “The Department of Homeland Security
is requiring us to assemble a task force to decide how this money
will be spent,” Blackwell said.

Rather than being handed down in a lump sum, the money is
parceled into categories, only some of which the task force can
allocate. Among the non-discretionary grants is money that will
cover up to one half of the salaries of full-time AAPD employees.
The task force will be able to decide how to spend funds earmarked
for equipment, employee training and newly devised inter-department
emergency simulations.

One such training exercise will take place on Oct. 16 and will
involve the Ann Arbor Police and Fire Departments along with other
emergency services responding to a simulated emergency. The money
granted to the city last year has enabled it to better coordinate
the joint first response of its several emergency departments. This
exercise will test their ability to work together. For example, Ann
Arbor was able to standardize its radio technology throughout the
emergency network so all branches of the network can communicate
when responding to the same event.

“The exercise grant will allow us to bring all the players
(in the emergency network) to the table,” Blackwell said. The
money that will fund this exercise and other emergency management
projects will not be forthcoming until late next month at the
earliest.

The department’s website cites terrorism as the primary
motivation for the state grant program. But Blackwell said
terrorism is at the bottom of the list of possible emergencies Ann
Arbor could face. The top three on the list are emergencies
resulting from weather, hazardous materials and infrastructure
failures. To safeguard essential services, Blackwell said he hopes
some of this year’s grant money can go toward emergency
generators for electricity-dependent utilities such as the water
system.

“The main purpose (of the grants) is to further strengthen
the city of Ann Arbor, to improve its critical
infrastructures,” Blackwell said. “We’re prepared
for all types of emergencies, not just terrorist threats,” he
added.

The grants are awarded on need-basis. Ann Arbor conducted a
threat assessment, noting all the critical infrastructures that
could be vulnerable to any type of hazard — natural or
manmade, accidental or intentional.

After Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush created the Department of
Homeland Security to help states and cities guard against future
terrorist threats. Ann Arbor’s use of the homeland security
grants reflects the expanded role the new department has taken.

The state grant program is due to come under review in 2006,
when the federal government will decide if the grants are still
necessary.

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