Police dept. approved for $13,000 USDA grant

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

July 23, 2008 - The city of Sulphur Springs has been approved for a federal grant that will help purchase thousands of dollars' worth of equipment to upgrade the city's emergency response operations and volunteer teams.

The $13,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Rural Development as announced today by Scooter Brockette, acting state director of the agency.

The money comes from the office's Community Facilities Grant Program, which in fiscal year 2007 provided $882,000 in financial support to rural areas in Texas.

The grant to the city has been earmarked for equipment for the Sulphur Springs Police Department and will be used to buy specialized equipment, including laptop computers and mobile radios.

Lt. Rex Morgan, the city's director of emergency management, said the funding should be transfered to the city's coffers in two to three weeks and will help the city meet federal mandates.

"This will help us come into compliance with the National Incident Management System, a Homeland Security directive," Lt. Morgan said.

While most emergency situations are handled locally, help may be needed from multiple area, state and federal agencies when natural disasters and emergencies occur, including acts of terrorism.

The National Incident Management System, known by its acronym NIMS, was released in 2004 to create a cooperative network so that emergency responders from different jurisdictions and disciplines can work together better to respond to such scenarios.

For example, Morgan explained, the grant money will be used in part to purchase laptop computers with PowerPoint projector capabilities that will allow the local Emergency Operations Center to have a real-time link to the state EOC.

"There's a system called Web EOC we can link into with the state emergency operations center," Morgan said. "It will display all EOC activities and allow us to transmit data back and forth with other agencies such as the state EOC and the health department."

The money will also help provide mobile radios for the police department's Volunteers on Patrol squads. The VOP members take some of the burden off of on-duty police officers by helping out with many tasks, including business safety checks, vacation house watches, Neighborhood Watch programs and assisting at special events that require traffic control. In the event of a large-scale emergency, the volunteers would also be called on to help in a variety of support roles.

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