COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina has received about $43
million in federal money to respond to terrorist attacks, State Law
Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart says.
The grants from the U.S. Homeland Security Department will go
toward equipment and training for the workers who will respond
first to a terror attack or a natural disaster, Stewart said
Nearly $30 million will be spent by the state on equipment such
as outfitting a team that can rescue victims out of collapsed
buildings, a first in South Carolina, Stewart said.
The money also will go toward special response teams stationed
in each county with a population of more than 100,000,
decontamination equipment for all of South Carolina's 46 counties
and improved communication devices.
The special equipment will be shared with all agencies across
the state, Stewart said.
"We're having to do business in a new way. We have to rely on
one another," Stewart said, flanked by a SLED helicopter and bomb
disposal truck at the agency's headquarters in suburban Columbia.
In a separate, previously announced grant, the port in
Charleston will receive $5 million for a permanent radiation
detection system and an additional $5 million for other security
Also, $5 million of the federal money will be sent directly to
counties to spend as they see fit. Each county will get $50,000,
with the rest divided based on population, ranging from an
additional $6,700 for McCormick County to an extra $255,000 for
Four task forces of local, state and federal officials from
different regions of the state were in charge of deciding how to
distribute the money.
Providing money for local authorities to spend on what they need
is important, Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster said.
"You cannot have homeland security without having hometown
security," Foster said.
Newberry County will receive about $75,000, and officials plan
to spend the money buying a gas mask and protective suit for every
deputy, paramedic and any other emergency worker who might have to
respond to a terror attack first.
That way the first officers could try to contain the situation
during the few hours it takes the specially equipped teams from
Columbia or other places to get to Newberry County, Foster said.
Also, there is as much chance a small town or county officer may
stop a terror strike as federal agents. After all, Foster points
out it was a rookie Murphy, N.C., police officer that caught Eric
Rudolph last month after he spent five years eluding one of the
largest manhunts in the nation's history.
"Chances are if we stop a weapons-of-mass-destruction attack,
it will be done by a local officer making a traffic stop," Foster
As chief of SLED, Stewart became the leader of state homeland
security when Gov. Mark Sanford put state agents in charge of
protecting South Carolina shortly after taking office in January.
Sanford praised Stewart for passing out money based on need,
instead of politics. He also said it was important to give local
agencies a stake in deciding how the money was spent.
"The threat of terrorism may come when we least expect it,"
the governor said.
Stewart said the grants are just the beginning. State officials
will have to revise their plans on how to respond to terror attacks
by the end of the year. They also hope to find more federal money
to try to prevent attacks in the first place.
"We've come a long way in South Carolina," Stewart said. "But
we still have a long way to go."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
I like the part about the special teams that search for people in collapsed buildings.