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Homeland Security Official Hears Concerns Of Local First-Responders

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A high-ranking official with Homeland Security came to the Triangle Friday to talk about the front lines of fighting terrorism.

Michael Brown was greeted with a healthy dose of praise -- and skepticism.

Be it a snow storm or a hurricane, North Carolina's police, fire and emergency medical personnel are the first responders. Since 9-11, they also must be prepared for terrorist disasters.

Local departments have shared more than $2 million in recent grants to replace aging equipment and buy protective gear.

Brown, Undersecretary for Homeland Security, held a roundtable with some of those first-responders to learn about their preparedness.

"What I will tell the president (George W. Bush) is that these dedicated people are taking these limited resources, using them in North Carolina, such that people are getting the best bang for their buck," Brown said.

Though thankful for the help, local public-safety leaders expressed frustration about the hoops they said they must jump through to get the resources.

"My single biggest issue I have with this is that there's a federal bureaucracy, and it's a new agency," North Carolina Emergency Management Director Ken Taylor said. "And the new agency's learning how to do things."

Said Raleigh Fire Chief Earl Fowler: "What avenues are going to be available? How much is going to be there? These are questions we all had."

Brown called them growing pains as a new federal agency takes on the challenges of a new world.

He said the Department of Homeland Security is working to streamline the flow of funds to first responders.

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