9/11 legacy seen in local hurricane response

One of the living legacies of 9/11 is what we've been seeing in the hurricane zones these past two and a half weeks.

GAITHERSBURG, MD. (WUSA9) - Sixteen years after the September 11th attacks, Montgomery County Maryland still receives at least $5 milllion every year in homeland security funding from the federal government which is intended to plan, equip and respond to emergencies of all kinds.

The legacy of 9/11 is now seen in the 28 highly specialized Urban Search and Rescue Response System Task forces located around the nation.

Montgomery County's Task Force One has been deployed to respond to Hurricane Harvey in Houston and is en-route to the southeast to help with the effects of Irma.

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The same is true for Northern Virginia's Urban Search and Rescue Task force.

The organizations are the most visible legacies of the 9/11 attacks in communities throughout the United States.

The money has been used to buy everything from new communications systems, to rescue boats,  to fully functioning field hospitals.

But the spending has not been confined to specialized task forces.

Every firefighter, paramedic and police officer is touched by the equipment and training that has flowed to local jurisdictions since 9/11.

The federal government spends more than $50 billion per year on non-military homeland security.

The money flows to states and local jurisdictions through grants.

One problem that has been solved by all the spending in the D.C. region is the "interoperability" of communications. Now all local first-responder agencies have radios that can be used to talk to each other in a region-wide crisis.   

When the Pentagon was attacked, firefighters from Prince George's County and police in the district were unable to communicate with other rescuers flooding to the scene of the tragedy. If a similar response were required today, all agencies would be able to communicate with each other.

The money has not always flowed smoothly. According to a federal audit, between 2011 and 2013, nearly $11 million in homeland security grant money flowing through Maryland's Emergency Management Agency to local jurisdictions lacked adequate controls. One result was a room full of computers that were delivered to Montgomery County but which sat unopened and unused for nearly a year and a half.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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