The federal government during the past three years has been awarding homeland security grants to help first responders be better prepared for disaster. Houston police and fire officials showcased some of the new hardware for the media. Houston Public Radio’s Capella Tucker reports.
The new equipment includes a new HPD helicopter, Bomb Squad Command Post, and Houston Fire Department Rescue Truck and Hazardous Materials Truck. Part of a $41 million grant paid for the equipment. Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt says the equipment will get a lot of use.
“This equipment is not only be used in the case of a terrorist threat or an attack, but it’s going to be used on a day to day basis to ensure that we can protect the citizens of Houston from any threat. Because I view terrorist threats as just another group of criminals who are doing harm or trying to do harm to members of our community.”
HFD’s JJ McGarry is with the Hazmat Unit. His department’s new equipment includes computer software that helps determine how wide of an evacuation or shelter-in-place is necessary in the event of a chemical release. McGarry says a new infrared spectrometer will help first responders know what they are dealing with at a scene.
“Every thing out there has a certain, absorbs infrared light at a certain rate. Depending on the rate it absorbs it and deflects it, the machine deciphers what that material is. It can tell you the difference between Splenda and Equal. It can you the difference between Heinz and Hunt’s ketchup.”
HPD’s Bomb Squad has new equipment that will allow them to dispose of improvised explosive devices. Officer Ed Farris says they’ll be able to test for hazardous material without opening the equipment.
“We didn’t have the capability to take samples from the inside without actually touching it. So this is a hands-off type of situation where we can run it through a complete different system to get samples which is safe for the bomb technician and the hazmat team who is helping us out.”
The equipment is impressive but Houston Fire Chief Phil Boriskie says it’s about human lives.
“Ultimately this equipment in this room gives these men and these women in blue who responds to the worst moment of your life a greater chance of going home alive to their wives and kids. And just as important, it gives this community a better chance of going home alive to their wives and kids.”
Log on to KUHF dot org to see pictures of the new equipment. Click on the links to hear audio tours by HPD and HFD officials explaining the uses of the new hardware. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.