Grant makes way for Haz-mat supplies

Heated for comfort after possible contamination in a biological weapons attack, Moffat County's grant-funded and recently arrived hazardous materials storage trailer includes his and her showers.

The trailer is among the largest ticket items funded by a state-administered federal grant for the county's 12-member Haz-mat team. And, with another grant application recently sent off totaling $598,248 for equipment and technology for 15 different county entities, more is on the way.

"Everybody will not get everything they asked for," said Clyde Anderson, Moffat County's emergency manager, who drafted the new request under the Department of Justice's State Domestic Preparedness Equipment Program.

In the first round of the grants, state authorities funded about $70,000 of the $200,000 in requested equipment. This new round could be different given the county's needs, Anderson said.

"That (previous grant) was before Sept. 11," he said.

Equipping the county's Haz-mat team remains a top priority with the new grant. The unit, jointly owned by the Craig Rural Fire Protection District, the city of Craig and Moffat County, received "limited" testing equipment for biohazards, such as anthrax this year, while the grant application also notes the unit's expanding role for response across Northwest Colorado.

The Colorado State Patrol's local Haz-mat personnel has been reassigned to the Front Range, the grant notes.

"This re-allocation of resources by the Colorado State Patrol essentially leaves the Moffat County Haz-mat team with exclusive emergency Haz-mat response responsibility for the entire Northwest Colorado region," according to the grant application.

Coverage areas could expand beyond that for the local unit, whose potential duties will not only include preparedness for weapons of mass destruction attacks, but "assisting regional drug-enforcement task forces with activities such as clandestine drug lab issues," the grant states.

Bill Johnston, chief of the county's Haz-mat unit, said team members, as well as Craig Rural Fire Protection District personnel, will attend federally funded clandestine laboratory training courses offered by the Drug Enforcement Administration in February.

Johnston said the county's Haz-mat team eventually will be on call, responding across the area covered by the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team (GRAMNET).

GRAMNET now relies on the DEA's Denver office to handle potentially hazardous materials, Johnston said.

"Discussions are also underway with southwest Wyoming to explore the possibilities of providing emergency Haz-mat response to the corridor between Craig and I-80 in southwest Wyoming," according to the grant.

But Johnston said the team hasn't committed to responding that far north to the highway.

"We've told the Baggs (Wyo.) people to call if they need us," Johnston. "Grand County is the farthest in terms of distance we've been thinking about. That (responding to I-80) would be something we would have to talk about."

As coverage areas expand, Johnston said the number of calls for service would dictate the Haz-mat unit's size. With staff now consisting of only Moffat County residents, the unit might have to recruit and train on-call staff living in the other counties served, Johnston said.

He added that the team last year responded to four calls for service.

The grant, meanwhile, includes some $128,000 in funding requests for the Moffat County Haz-mat team and the Craig Rural Fire Protection District everything from thermal imaging cameras, lap-top computers, to radios and gas detectors, among numerous other items.

Two heart monitor and defibrillator devises have been requested; one for the Haz-mat team and the fire department, according to the grant.

The city of Craig is pursuing some $83,000 worth of surveillance and security equipment to install at its wastewater treatment facility, while the county included a $60,000 request for similar technology for the Moffat County Courthouse.

The Memorial Hospital lodged requests for medical supplies, equipment and communications technology totaling more than $179,000.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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