Concordia looks at spending funds for local security

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2004

Homeland security grants are equipping the parish for emergencies in and around the Miss-Lou.

Morris White, director of emergency preparedness in Concordia Parish, said officials are spending the more than $300,000 in funds from 2003 now. After 90-plus percent of the funds are spent or allocated, then the parish can apply for money for 2004.

The grants span from the hospital to law enforcement and fire departments in the parish.

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&uot;It’s for the protection of the public Š preparing for the future of our area,&uot; White said of the new services and equipment from the grants.

One of the large projects the parish is finishing with 2003 funds now is a decontamination site at Riverland Medical Center.

Riverland is one of the three sites people would evacuate to if there were a disaster or accident at Grand Gulf.

Morris said people first would report to Ferriday High School for decontamination and then to Riverland if they needed additional decontamination.

With the more than $20,000 grant the hospital received for the site, they bought a building that sits just outside the emergency room.

Billy Rucker, assistant administrator at Riverland, said they are completing the building now, getting the equipment in for the center.

The building will have self-contained heating/cooling unit, a separate water supply, showers for decontamination and a contamination water return system so the contaminated water will not mix with the fresh water.

The center is there &uot;should we ever need it. But hopefully we’ll never need it,&uot; Rucker said.

The decontamination center will not only provide relief if a disaster strikes at Grand Gulf but also in the parish. &uot;People don’t realize how many trucks come across (U.S.) 84 with hazardous material,&uot; Rucker said.

When a crop duster crashed a few years ago, Rucker said the brought the pilot to the hospital to decontaminate him.

Once people are decontaminated in the outside building, they can go in the hospital to the special decontamination room in the emergency room area if treatment is needed.

This could include, Morris said, decontaminating someone internally.

The hospital is not the only one putting its 2003 money to use.

All of the parish law enforcement will soon be reaping the benefits with the installation of new computer systems inside the patrol cars.

Sheriff Randy Maxwell said he hopes officers throughout the parish will have the new technology within two to three months.

Maxwell said the department is looking at software right now, to decide which is best.

With the equipment, Maxwell said officers will be able to run complete criminal histories from their patrol cars with access to 10 or 12 databases for information

. &uot;That closes a lot of loopholes,&uot; Maxwell said.

The Vidalia Fire Department already has spent its money from homeland security grants on starting its hazardous material team.

Morris said the other fire departments in the parish will buy equipment to provide backup for the team.

The Concordia Fire District No. 2 will get a trailer for backup to the hazmat team, White said.