Safety efforts get boost

City given $1m antiterror grant

By John Laidler
Globe Correspondent / February 15, 2009
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Everett is planning major improvements to its public safety equipment and facilities through $1 million in federal antiterrorism funds.

The city, which hosts a liquefied natural gas facility, is receiving the funds through a US Department of Homeland Security grant program designed to protect critical infrastructure from a terrorist attack. Massachusetts received $2.1 million in 2006 from the program, $1 million of which was allocated to Everett.

City officials said the grant will pay for much-needed public safety upgrades, including new communications equipment and overhauls of the emergency dispatch and operations centers.

Police Lieutenant Paul M. Landry said the upgrades will not only serve the function of helping deter terrorists, but will help the city's public safety departments with their regular work.

"We are not just buying this equipment to sit on a shelf and wait for something to happen. It will be put to use on a daily basis by the city's first responders," Landry said.

He said the improvements would be difficult to carry out without the federal grant, given the city's tight finances.

Landry, the Police Department's executive officer, said it took several years for the money to become available because Everett and other recipients of the grant money had to have their purchasing plans reviewed and approved by state and federal officials.

Distrigas of Massachusetts' Everett marine terminal on the Mystic River meets about 20 percent of New England's annual gas demand, according to the company's website. The terminal includes two LNG storage tanks with a combined capacity of 3.4 billion cubic feet, or 42 million gallons. Since 1971, the facility has received more than 600 shipments of liquefied natural gas from various international sources.

Other major waterfront installations in Everett include an Exxon Mobil Corp. marine distribution terminal featuring 29 oil storage tanks and a metals recycling facility operated by Schnitzer Steel Industries.

"We're pleased that the federal government has recognized the importance of our role in helping prevent, deter, and respond to acts of terrorism against critical infrastructure" Police Chief Steven Mazzie said in a prepared statement. "This grant will enable us to be better prepared as a community to work with private industry for the safety of all."

Landry said the grant came from a Department of Homeland Security program that supports the implementation of "buffer zone plans" outside the perimeter of identified critical infrastructure or key resource sites. The plans are intended to develop measures that would make it more difficult for terrorists to conduct surveillance or launch attacks in the vicinity of those targets, and to better prepare localities to handle such threats.

The city, which will receive the funding in the form of reimbursements, is not required to appropriate any matching funds, according to Landry.

Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. praised the work of the Police Department in applying for the grant, saying in a statement, "I'm pleased that the Police and Fire Department are doing everything to be prepared to protect the residents of this city."

Equipment upgrades Everett plans to carry out with the grant include purchase of new mobile computers enabling police officers and firefighters to write reports, run queries, and communicate securely with their stations while in their vehicles.

Computers in the city's emergency operations center will be upgraded to improve data sharing and communication, while new helmets equipped for radio communications will be acquired for the Police Department's motorcycle unit.

The Police Department's marine patrol boat will get a new motor, while the department's dive team will be outfitted with new dry suits. The police special operations unit will receive new surveillance equipment.

The city's emergency dispatch center will be completely overhauled to enable it to meet current fire and electrical codes and to improve the efficiency of operations. The project will include new electrical wiring and the installation of new work stations, cabinets, and computers.

Another planned use of the funding is the relocation of a back-up radio repeater to eliminate black-out spots in the radio communication system used by the Police, Fire, and Emergency Management departments.

Funds will also allow the department to provide specialized equipment, training, and recruiting for its Citizens Corps, a group of citizen volunteers that is available to assist during emergencies.

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