OCEAN CITY – Ocean City could soon be getting a bomb squad vehicle, along with other items, thanks largely to this year’s Homeland Security Grant.
Special Projects and Grant Coordinator Wayne Pryor presented the Mayor and City Council with the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Homeland Security Grant on behalf of the public safety group.
“They are the ones who that really shepherded this grant and figure out how the money is funded, received and we proceed with implementing it,” Pryor said.
The core of the public safety group is comprised of City Manager Dennis Dare, Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald, Police Chief Bernadette DiPino and Fire Chief Chris Larmore.
In his presentation to the council, Pryor reviewed the history behind the Homeland Security Grant that Ocean City receives.
“A lot of things have changed since 9-11,” Pryor said, referring to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2011 and the government’s response to form the department of homeland security.
According to Pryor, the Department of Homeland Security agency Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administered this plan through a state agency called Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), who administer the grant and pass it through to local governments.
Ocean City is one of 26 emergency management districts in Maryland. Out of the 23 counties in the state, Baltimore, Annapolis and Ocean City receive direct funding from homeland security based on population, crime risk, critical infrastructure and terrorist targets.
In 2003, the departments within Ocean City underwent an assessment and strategy study to review where the town falls short and where there were deficiencies to present to the state in order to receive funding.
Potential terrorist targets were identified as the beach, Boardwalk, water and wastewater plants, the convention center, city bus system, City Hall, public safety buildings, the airport and special events, where large gatherings of people can be found.
Other capabilities reviewed were the city’s response personnel, emergency response equipment, training and planning capabilities.
Activities that generated needs through the assessment were town equipment, training and planning.
“What we did was take those homeland security funds to address those needs,” Pryor explained.
Since 2003, nearly $4.2 million has been brought to Ocean City between 35 homeland security grants awarded to the town and have been spent in addressing the town’s vulnerability recovered through that assessment.
The public safety group has had the opportunity to update the assessment and re-evaluated the town’s need for the homeland security grant, and in what direction they needed to implement it.
“Since 2003, a lot of the federal government dollars have realized that terrorism is probably not going to attack every nook and cranny of the country,” Pryor said. “So they have allowed us to take an all hazards approach, which is extremely beneficial to Ocean City because most of our danger comes from nature.”
In an all hazards approach, the team has looked at ways to protect the town’s infrastructure to ensure the continual operation of the government and operations, strengthen response and recovery, and maintain communications.
“One thing we did learn as a nation after 9-11 is that when things happen we have to be able to communicate,” Pryor said.
In total, Ocean City has been awarded $318,443 by the FY 2010 Homeland Security Grant. With that money and through the new assessment, the needs for that money is storage in the area’s computer network, which is additional storage in the IT department in case the network was to fail.
Also, additional surveillance cameras are needed. There are currently over 75 cameras installed throughout town.
Also included are an emergency management planner, variable message boards, Hazmat response, a bomb squad vehicle and a pan disrupter, which is a small detonating device for improvised explosive device (IED).
Councilwoman Mary Knight made a motion to approve the items recommended to spend the homeland security grant on. Councilman Doug Cymek seconds the motion and the council voted unanimously.