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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Exclusive: Sandy Hook and Watertown Received Big Bucks from FEMA



With all of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Sandy Hook massacre and the Boston Marathon bombings, it should be of great interest to some to learn that FEMA, an agency under the control of the Department of Homeland Security, awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to first responders in Newtown and Watertown (where the Tsarnaev brothers were caught in a shootout), in order to effectively respond to "acts of terrorism".  As Journal of the Bizarre has uncovered, these cash handouts were awarded as early as 2010.

On Feb. 8, 2010, Connecticut's NewsTimes.com reported that the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department was awarded more than $143,000 by the Department of Homeland Security, as part of a FEMA initiative called the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.  Not a bad chunk of change, considering that Sandy Hook has a population just over 11,000.

Although the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program has awarded more than $4 billion to hundreds of fire departments since 2001, the amount given to the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department is very peculiar.  In 2010, another Newtown area fire department also received a FEMA grant.  Stony Hill Fire Department in Bethel was awarded a paltry $27,000 under the same program.

How is it that a fire department in Bethel, with a population of 18,584, received just $27,000 from FEMA, while a fire department in a much smaller town like Sandy Hook received five times as much from the Dept. of Homeland Security?  It is doubtful that the SHVFC was in more dire need than their counterparts in nearby Bethel, since the Sandy Hook fire department hosts an annual LobsterFest in June, a major fundraiser for the company that runs for an entire weekend.

FEMA's website states that these funds are part of a bigger "scheme" known as the National Incident Management System (NIMS).  FEMA states:

"The National Incident Management System (NIMS) defines preparedness as "a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action in an effort to ensure effective coordination during incident response."  This 'preparedness cycle' is one element of a broader National Preparedness System to prevent, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters."

Was this $143,000 given in 2010 to first responders in Newtown used to train, exercise, and prepare for the Sandy Hook school shooting?

While you're mulling over that question, here's something else to chew on.  In February of 2012, a FEMA grant of $93,000 was awarded to the fire department in Watertown, the site of the shootout between law enforcement and two two alleged Boston Marathon bombers.  When you consider the fact that the Watertown Fire Department had to compete against 25,000 other stations in America for this prize money, it seems like more than a mere coincidence. 

In a 2012 news article, Watertown Fire Chief Mario Orangio stated that “The whole project is designed to completely replace the hand-held radios and communication equipment we use (for the radios) to talk to each other.”  The FEMA grant includes a matching 10 percent contribution, resulting in an overall gift of $102,300.  The article goes on to claim that the fire department plans to purchase 30 radios with the money, which comes out to over $3,400 per radio.  That, my friends, is one expensive walkie-talkie.  Even the most expensive commercially available state-of-the-art two-way radio, the Motorola HT750, only costs around $850, with most other top-of-the-line radios ranging in price between $300 and $400- and that's the "Everyday Joe" price for a single radio; surely there are several companies that offer price breaks for large orders and for law enforcement and emergency responder personnel.

Even more startling is the fact that this $102,300 gift wasn't enough for the Watertown Fire Department.  The news article stated that Orangio also applied for second grant through FEMA’s SAFER program, to hire four additional employees.  The amount sought?  A mind-blowing $600,000 to $700,000.  This is an inexplicable amount of money for a small city with under thirty-two thousand people.

“The grant would cover salary and benefits for two full years,” said Orangio.  This suggests that either Watertown firefighters earn over $80,000 a year and carry around $3,400 radios, or something very peculiar is going on.

Speaking of peculiar, the SAFER grant, which stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, does not obligate the town to retain the firefighters after the grant period.  Essentially, this makes the employees very similar to "soldiers of fortune", much like Blackwater security agents.  These "firefighters of fortune" are free to go from city to city, from disaster to disaster.

What were these men doing in both Newtown and Boston?


This also begs the question, just how many "programs" does FEMA need for giving away taxpayer money to fire departments?  What's the point of FEMA's SAFER program, if its primary goal is virtually the same as FEMA's Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program?

If you want the answer to that question, you'll have to go to the Department of Homeland Security's FEMA Region I headquarters, which oversees FEMA activity in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.  Not surprisingly, the headquarters are located just a half mile east of the Boston marathon finish line.



1 comment:

  1. Good grief - this whole article is so full of fail that it beggars belief.

    1) You are confusing the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) with the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG). The AFG has nothing to do with responding to acts of terrorism. It is a grant given to fire departments for training and equipment needed in the normal course of fire department duties, i.e. putting out fires.

    2) AFG grants are given to hundreds of fire departments annually and the amounts vary widely. The amount issued to Sandy Hook was nowhere near the largest grant issued that year and is not even remotely unusual in its size.

    3) The suggestion that a community of 11,000 people could raise enough money to fund, for example, a new fire engine, through an annual lobsterfest is utterly ludicrous.

    4) Why on earth would money intended to be used to train people to respond to school shootings be given to the fire department instead of the police?

    5) The cost of "the most expensive commercially state-of-the-art two-way radio" is a useless baseline. The radios used by first responders are P25 radios. Even the commercially available ones cost $1k-$2k. A Motorola APX7000 (only available to emergency services) with headsets, chargers, holders, batteries and so on would probably very easily cost $3400.

    I'm sure you don't need to resort to grasping at straws like this.

    ReplyDelete

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