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Local Responders Voice Concerns At Homeland Security Summit

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Local governments have been waiting for the money to help buy gas masks, protective clothing, equipment and training.

Wednesday's first Homeland Security Summit gave local responders the opportunity to sound off.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, led to major changes for state and local law enforcement. Not only did they face new threats, but they also had new mandates from the federal government.

More than a year and a half later, local governments, police and fire departments are still waiting on money for their programs.

Firefighters responding to the plant explosion in Kinston, the police investigating a Raleigh home invasion, the emergency crews responding to flooding in Smithfield -- they were all first-responders, who now must be prepared for anything, including terrorism.

"If some kind of terrorist acts are perpetrated within our country, God forbid," Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill told first-responders on Wednesday, "whatever the reasons that we dial 911, we know that you are going to be there."

In the first Homeland Security Summit, first-responders aired their gripes. They told the Triangle's three congressmen they don't like getting the runaround in receiving federal money for homeland security measures.

"There's a question about the funding and difficulty in getting it to the local level," said Chief Dan Jones of the Chapel Hill Fire Department. "We've made these good-faith efforts and extended ourselves to provide additional levels of service, security and training, and now, we're concerned that the funding is not going to follow up what was promised."

Smithfield Police Chief Steve Gilliken said he was apprehensive.

"I think there is some growing skepticism that it is going to work," Gilliken said. "Not that it's a good thing, not that the money is not needed, but just how effective is the largest bureaucracy ever created going to be?"

Rep. Bob Etheridge of the 2nd District got the message.

"I don't think we have a choice," he said. "We're making money available to prosecute a war overseas; for sure, we can do it to protect our people here at home."

Despite the absence of money, Raleigh, Durham, Cary and Chapel Hill have formed a regional search-and-rescue team. Formal Training is expected to start Monday, even there is no money to pay for it.


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