Borough to get federal funding

Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is in line to receive more than $133,500 in federal funds to further activities of the Community Emergency Response Teams program.

The money is part of a $245,600 in Citizen Corps funding appropriated to the state through the Homeland Security Grant Program. President George W. Bush established the Citizen Corps following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as a way to improve volunteer activities in response to emergencies.

The borough already has received several grants earlier this year aimed at emergency response activities, including $14,000 to implement a Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) program in the borough, a sum later backed up by grants of $19,000 and $7,100.

The $113,564 grant is "the largest award of its kind in the nation," said assembly President Pete Sprague of Soldotna.

According to the borough's Office of Emergency Management, the new funds will be used to expand the CERT program into other areas of the borough and in the high schools, establish a partnership with HAM radio operators, develop a community watch program in high crime rural areas and provide basic safety equipment, rescue gear and disaster relief supplies for use by CERT team members.

A public hearing and final action on Ordinance 2004-19-02 are scheduled for the July 7 assembly meeting.

The Kenai Peninsula has a history of natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanoes, floods and wildfire that have disrupted road service between peninsula communities and between the peninsula and the rest of the state. In addition, parts of that infrastructure may be vulnerable to terrorist attack, as with several bridges along the highway routes. With those facts in mind, the borough initiated a CERT program in 2003, and since then, community groups have developed a limited response capability in support of public safety responders in emergencies, according to the borough.

The CERT program has hired a coordinator, Ray Jeffers, who oversees the program and assists with instruction. It has provided training to 40 people in three communities and trained 15 CERT instructors. Through memorandum of understanding, the program has placed disaster relief supplies in Bear Creek, Anchor Point and Cooper Landing. A Citizen Corps Council has been established as a subcommittee of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Local Emergency Planning Committee.

The additional $133,564 will be used to train another 200 CERT members and expand the program with training in local high schools. It will pay for training in Russian and Native villages in the South Peninsula area and across Cook Inlet and create a partnership with local amateur radio operators and provide CERT training for them.

Further, the money will provide continuing education and training to CERT members, including medical training and search and rescue training.

A Community Watch Program will be established using a portion of the funds. As envisioned, the watch program would be co-sponsored by the Alaska State Troopers.

Finally, the money also will be used to provide basic safety equipment, rescue gear and disaster relief supplies and to update training aids to make them more specific to Alaska and the peninsula.

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