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Examiner
  • Federal funding worries area officials

  • Emergency managers are expressing concern that a loss of federal funding could endanger the metro area’s readiness for hazards ranging from severe weather to an outbreak of disease to events such the carnage last week in Boston.

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  • Emergency managers are expressing concern that a loss of federal funding could endanger the metro area’s readiness for hazards ranging from severe weather to an outbreak of disease to events such the carnage last week in Boston.
    In a presentation Tuesday to the board of the Mid-America Regional Council, the co-chair of the Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Committee outlined how the region has spent $100 million on preparedness in the last decade, much of it local money, much of it from the federal government. Among other things, that’s how the Kansas City area was among the first in the country to develop a terrorism early warning network.
    After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the federal government started making significant amounts of money available to local governments – particularly large cities – for emergency preparedness, especially the ability to prevent and respond to terrorism. But that flow of money to Kansas City has slowed sharply and the area recently just missed out on a large annual allocation, said the committee’s co-chair, Hannes Zacharias, who is also the county manager of Johnson County.
    “So we don’t know if we’re going to qualify for (federal) funding in the future,” he said. “That’s going to be a problem for us.”
    Among other things, the coordinating committee gets local governments to look at efficient ways to share resources. For example, Zacharias said, not every jurisdiction needs a haz-mat team. Mostly, he said, the focus is on training and developing relationships among various agencies and individuals so when an emergency comes, they know where resources are and what capabilities everyone has to work with. That echoes a point emergency managers in Eastern Jackson County have made consistently for years.
    “That relationship building is very important,” Zacharias said.
    Speaking just days after the bombings and manhunt in Boston last week, Zacharias mentioned high-profile events here such as last year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game and the 100,000 people who gather on race day at Kansas Speedway, and he echoed another comment emergency managers make frequently.
    “It’s not a matter of if something’s going to happen in the Kansas City region,” he said. “It will. It’s a matter of when.”
    To keep response capabilities up to speed, he said, the committee will explore further appeals for federal federal as well as other sources.
    “We’ve got to explore that more fully before we come back to you with something,” he told the MARC board.
    The immediate priority, he said, is to find ways to sustain the area’s essential emergency capacities. That means ongoing training, keeping up with licensing and replacing equipment and other goods – which do have a certain shelf life – as needed.
    In addition to Jackson County, the committee covers Platte, Clay, Ray and Cass counties in Missouri and Leavenworth, Wyandotte, Johnson and Miami counties in Missouri.
    Page 2 of 2 - Zacharias said he’s frequently asked if the area is safer than it was 10 years ago.
    His response: “I’m not sure how safe we are, but I think we’re in a better position to react and respond than we ever have been.”
     
     
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