The undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security, Asa Hutchinson, made the announcement in Savannah this afternoon that Georgia is getting more than $37.5 million from the department. That's more than three times what the state has received for the last five years, and the Homeland Security Department says it will help first responders, like police and firefighters, do their job even better.
"You have delivered, based on a sense of responsibility to protect the people of Georgia and our nation, now we want to deliver as well," Hutchinson said.
The biggest concern? Communications.
"Communications is a big need," said Hugh Futrell of the Southside Fire Department. "We're upgrading throughout the county, the 800 system, so we see a need for upgrading with portable radios and stuff. Analog to full-blown digital systems, which are becoming the standard throughout the United States."
The money will be split up among eight regions across the state, to be used for things like emergency equipment and training. Locally, the money for the Coastal Empire will be dispersed through the Chatham Emergency Management Agency.
"It's going to make a huge difference locally," said Dennis Jones, deputy director of SEMA. "We have identified several million dollars of critical needs just in Chatham County, and this money is going across the region, but it will certainly help meet the needs of our local response agencies."
Police and fire departments will have to apply for the money through grants. The money can also be used to help ordinary citizens help emergency responders through forming community emergency response teams (CERTs). The basic CERT certification program consists of 20 hours of training, and the first classes in our area begin June 23. Interested parties can call the United Way by dialing 211 between 8:30am and 5pm . More information is available online at the Chatham County Citizen's Corps Council.