June 25, 2018
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Emergency funds improve communications

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff

MACHIAS, Maine — The Washington County Emergency Management Agency funneled more than $324,000 in grant funds to communities across the county last year.

“The year of 2009 was a year filled with movement, opportunity and interaction with the towns within the county,” EMA Director Mike Hinerman said recently.

Many of the grants enabled the towns’ fire departments to upgrade to narrowband communications capability. All emergency radios are switching to narrowband.

“Say we are now using an entire slice of bread [to communicate],” Hinerman said. “Narrowband is like slicing that slice in half and doubling the capability.”

The towns and agencies that received equipment include Alexander, Baileyville, Charlotte, Dennysville, SAD 14 in the Danforth area, Lubec, Eastport and the University of Maine at Machias.

Hinerman and County Manager Betsy Fitzgerald said the grants were the result of many hours of cooperative work between the county and the communities.

“Washington County is taking the lead, obtaining the grants so the costs will not be transferred to the towns,” Hinerman said.

This is nothing new, he added.

In 2007, the emergency management agency received a $136,500 planning grant to help the county towns update their state-required emergency plans as they worked toward compliance with the National Incident Management System.

NIMS is a systematic, proactive approach to collaboration among departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector.

“When we started this process, only Machias and Calais were compliant,” Hinerman said.

Using the 2007 grant funds, the agency hired the Washington County Council of Governments to work with the towns on incident management system plans.

“It is a time-consuming, laborious process,” Hinerman said. “WCCOG did a great job.”

Today, just two or three towns are not in compliance with the national system. Hinerman said those towns risk losing Department of Homeland Security funding in the future.

This work has put Washington County “ahead of the curve,” Hinerman said. “We were the only county to apply to receiving the 2007-2008 planning grant.”

The 2009 funding of $324,065.44 enabled the emergency management agency to build on the national system’s progress. Hinerman stressed that all of the money for the project has come from federal stimulus grants.

“There is no local or county match,” he said.

“Towns, fire departments, EMS, law enforcement, medical facilities and the county must continue to work together to take advantage of these opportunities in this time of change and shrinking budgets,” Hinerman said.

The recipients, the purpose and the funding include:

• Washington County, radio system upgrades, $72,355; planning funds, $40,000; repeater upgrade, $15,000.

• SAD 14, security system upgrades in three schools, $36,463.

• Narrowband radio upgrades: Alexander, $8,707; Baileyville, $24,377; Charlotte, $7,136; Dennysville, $12,946; Lubec, $10,057.

• Generator hook-ups: Lubec, Eastport and UMM.

• Radio packages, two portables, one mobile each, to 13 municipal fire departments.

• Pager replacement, 138 pagers that could not be converted to narrowband, to 19 municipal fire departments.

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