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April 3th, 2013

Emergency response money goes to satellite phones, training

T

 he Village will use emergency response funding for satellite phones and first responder training, and officials will look into seeking money for larger purchases, such as a second boat for the Key Biscayne Police Department.
However, that could be a tall order: Fire-Rescue Chief Eric Lang, while stating the Village will review the suggestion, said the funding stream has dwindled year after year, and conventional wisdom suggests it could soon disappear altogether.
“Our money has significantly decreased, since this has started, pretty much every year,” he said. “This money is expected to dry up at some point.”
But the Chief added, “We can absolutely look into it. We’ll be doing more work on this.”
The issue came up at a Tuesday, March 4, Village Council meeting.
Village Manager John Gilbert said Key Biscayne has partnered with the City of Miami for 15 years to access grant funding from the State of Florida Division of Emergency Management via the Urban Areas Security Initiative, a Department of Homeland Security program.
In 15 years, Gilbert said, the Village has received over $500,000 to help with its ability to respond to major emergencies that go “above and beyond” typical police and fire-rescue calls.
This year, the Village will receive $16,380 for equipment and training it needs to “build, enhance and sustain capability to prevent, respond to and recover from threats or acts of terrorism by chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear and explosive incidents.”
DHS signed off on the Village’s request, which is part of a larger draft budget submitted by the City of Miami for the region and numerous specific municipalities.
Specifically, the Village will spend its funding on new satellite phones and updates to equipment and training.
A project list developed by the City of Miami states satellite phones will help Village officials improve communication during disaster response.
Lang said “basically anyone that needs to be in contact” will be given a satellite phone, including Council members, department directors and department deputy directors.
As for updating training and equipment, the City of Miami list states, “[A] previous Urban Areas Security Initiative has driven the safety for personnel emergency responders and the citizens we protect. The equipment and training must stay current to provide the most efficient and expedited response to any emergency.”
While Council members applauded the use of outside money for those needs, they also had ideas for other possible initiatives.
Council member Jim Taintor noted, “Reviewing what other agencies applied for and the amount of money being awarded, our $16,000 is minor.”
He asked if the Village could seek a larger allocation for a boat police and firefighters could use to respond to waterborne emergencies. Taintor noted even less expensive inflatable equipment could be valuable to local first responders.
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” he noted.
Lang said it’s certainly something he and Police Chief Charles Press will discuss, but noted, “At the end of the day, it has to be approved.”
Lang wasn’t overly optimistic about Key Biscayne’s chances.
He noted distributions are made based on perceived risk, and the Key – despite being as dense as the City of Chicago – is a small municipality that has seen its funding drop steadily.
Meanwhile, Mayor Frank Caplan asked Lang if there are any equipment deficiencies he would highlight based on last year’s Operation Key Rescue drill, which simulated a water-based rescue and recovery mission after a major hurricane wiped out the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Lang said the drill suggested first responders do have some training needs, but, “It didn’t identify specific equipment gaps.”

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