EDGECOMBE COUNTY, N.C. — Homeland security grants help early responders prepare for new threats. Local departments have shared more than $2 million preparing to deal with weapons of mass destruction. Emergency workers in smaller communities are also getting the help they need.
Law enforcement, firefighters and rescue workers in Edgecombe County are learning how to handle terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction.
"We cannot afford to wait. We have to be able to respond, train. We need to equip," said James Mercer, director of Edgecombe County Emergency Services.
A $15,000 Homeland Security grant will pay for the program. Some critics argue the money is spread too thin and should primarily be used to secure high-risk areas.
"Most people wouldn't think of Edgecombe County as a terrorist target, so why spend the grant money and the time going through this kind of training?" Mercer said. "First of all, North Carolina and Edgecombe County -- we are all susceptible to a terrorist event. We have military bases here."
Because of its location, Mercer said Edgecombe County could be called to help if something happened near Camp Lejeune, Ft. Bragg or Seymour Johnson.
"This training is more overdue than it is past due," said Conetoe Volunteer Fire Chief Allen Dennie.
Dennie said the training also prepares crews to handle chemical spills or large scale accidents like the Kinston plant explosion in 2003.
"We'll be ready for whatever happens," Dennie said.
Edgecombe County expects to train more than 200 emergency workers in the next few months. They will finish with a large-scale disaster drill in December.