APD, others get new tech

Published 11:59 pm Friday, February 6, 2009

Covington County has received more than $22,000 from the Department of Homeland Security for equipment purchases and emergency planning.

Covington is part of a 10-county Homeland Security region including Houston, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Coffee Cren-shaw, Butler, Bar-bour and Pike counties.

Emergency Management Agency director Kristi Stamnes said Friday that two local law enforcement agencies, as well as EMA, were recently notified of the award.

“Statewide, law enforcement agencies, fire departments and county level emergency response agencies such as E-911 and emergency management agencies, were able to submit a list of items from the approved equipment list provided by Homeland Security,” Stamnes said. “We submitted several things from several departments throughout the county that we’d hope to get funding for, but we were lucky enough to receive $22,500,”

Included in the $22,500 was $8,000 for a “water cannon,” a device used to detonate improvised explosive devices, for the Andalusia Police Department, and $10,000 to compile a new emergency operating procedure manual for the county, she said.

“The interesting thing about the new policy manual, which is being done by an outside company, is that all counties in the region were awarded money to complete,” she said. “This manual will include all up-to-date policies, new procedures and so on. It incorporates the plans we’ve adopted such as the National Incitement Management System, or NIMS, and the plan we have in case of a pandemic outbreak.

“I know these things sound odd, but it’s for the county’s protection,” she said. “Keeping these plans updated not only provides us with a detailed way to handle incidents — be it on small scale to a large scale like a natural disaster — but it also allows all personnel involved in the incident to know what everyone is doing all the way up to the state and federal levels.

“And in an emergency, that information is invaluable,” she said.

Stamnes said Homeland Security funds are awarded annually; however, there is no guarantee the county will receive funding each year.

“The thing about the way the Homeland Security money is spent is that items that are purchased have to benefit everyone in our entire region,” Stamnes said.

Additionally, The Covington County Sheriff’s Office was awarded $4,500 for a new metal detector for the courthouse.

In 2008, the county received a portion of $430,000, which was used for school safety measures such as camera and phone systems; in 2007, funds from the grant allowed for the purchase of a sonar and radio system for the county’s rescue boat, as well as a new repeater in the south end of the county and communication headsets for the Incident Response Team.