The nearly $100 million in Homeland Security dollars that has been allocated to San Francisco agencies, including the airport, has increased public safety, according to city officials.
“Everybody wants to know, ‘are you more prepared than you were five years ago,’” Mayor Gavin Newsom said while touring new equipment purchased by the San Francisco Fire Department with Homeland Security funding. “Absolutely, yes.”
Since Sept. 11, 2001, approximately $18 billion has been awarded to state and local governments across the country to increase the nation’s security, according to federal Homeland Security officials.
“The training alone is incredible,” said Mindy Talmadge, spokeswoman for the Fire Department, which has received more than $12 million from the Homeland Security grants allocated directly to The City. “We’ve sent people out of state to get these specialized trainings because of the funding and acquired equipment to keep those skills fresh, which obviously translates to a benefit for the community.”
As a result of the Homeland Security funding, public safety officers now have a new bomb truck and bomb robot, special suits to protect them in the event of a chemical or biological incident, search cameras to find humans trapped in collapsed buildings, a mobile medical unit for multicasualty situations and new masks and radios, among other emergency equipment.
One big-ticket item on order is a $500,000 mobile support trailer called a CBRNE — chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive — unit.
The Department of Public Health, which has received more than $7.5 million in Homeland Security dollars, has also used some of the funds for training, as well as to purchase protective equipment for medical personnel and acquire new communication equipment such as satellite phones, radios and laptops, said Mary Ellen Carroll, a senior planner for the department.
The department is also waiting for approval for a program that would allow those injured in an emergency to be tracked via a barcode, which would help friends and family locate them, shesaid.
Although the federal government initially focused Homeland Security dollars on anti-terrorism efforts, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, security has taken on a broader definition, said Todd Stewart, director of the Program for International and Homeland Security at Ohio State University.
“The picture is getting fuzzier on what money is for Homeland Security,” Stewart said. “Now it’s hurricanes, earthquakes, flu pandemics and oh, by the way, terrorists.”
Newsom said The City is ready for “all hazards.”
“There’s the prospect of a terrorist attack, but the reality in San Francisco is there’s an equal likelihood of Mother Nature’s fury and earthquakes,” Newsom said.