Federal grant improves South Plains emergency response - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Federal grant improves South Plains emergency response

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

After the tragedy of the September 11th attacks, the federal government wanted to make regions like the South Plains as prepared as possible for any catastrophe.

Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe said the attacks reminded our country of the importance of communication between the brave men and women who save lives.

"First responders trying to get into all the locations trying to work together between fire, EMS and law enforcement, the inoperability to communicate was one of the greatest difficulties," Rowe said.

Communication is especially important for Lubbock because it's a hub for so many smaller communities.

South Plains Association of Governments' Emergency Operations Coordinator David Corder says Lubbock received nearly $15 million because it's considered a hub for the region. Lubbock's region includes 15 counties.

Corder said most of the money was spent on communication.

"We can get people from Morton that can talk with guys in Guthrie and we never had those capabilities before," Corder said,

Funding provided the region with four command units that can communicate with nearly any emergency responders.

One was given to the Lubbock County Sheriff's office, and another to the city. Corder said Garza County and Plainview received smaller versions of the units with the same capabilities.

The vehicles can be used as a 911 call center in case of a disaster.

Grants also allowed agencies to fund a hazardous materials response team to battle chemical or biological threats.

Corder says a new regional search and rescue team will be housed in Levelland.

Rowe says authorities have already been training on the new equipment.

"We do all types of exercises to prepare, some tabletop, some live," Rowe said.

The mock disaster drills not only prepare responders, but also unify their efforts to keep folks safe; something Corder says wasn't always the case before 9-11.

"Hockley County stayed with Hockley County. Lubbock pretty well stayed with Lubbock. Plainview stayed with Plainview, and now we're all talking back and forth and they're training together and they're exercising together," said Corder.

From new equipment to new response teams and training methods, emergency officials say we're better prepared than ever before.

"If an event happens, regardless of the nature of it, this plan kicks into effect. People already know what their responsibilities are and they take their areas of command and control," Rowe said.

Copyright 2011 KCBD NewsChannel 11.

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