ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – When powerful tornados slammed into the St. Louis region last New Year’s Eve and again on Good Friday, a sizable chunk of the response was funded by grants from the Department of Homeland Security.
But with the Recession putting a squeeze on spending at all levels, money for the department’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) is being slashed, with St. Louis and other “Tier II” cities across the nation being negatively impacted.
“We’ve built this (emergency response system) all up and it needs to be sustained,” explains Nick Gragnani, exeuctive director for the St. Louis Area Regional Response System, or STARRS. “So if the funding goes away within the next two to three years, all of that equipment is not going to be sustained.”
Gragnani tells KMOX News that the unavoidable result will be a drop in preparedness, and thus public safety in the event of an emergency.
“A good example would be the urban search and rescue teams that we’ve built up across this region,” Gragnani says. “Various types of rescue equipment are been staged at numerous fire departments, and it’s available to respond whenever a major incident occurs.”
The system already been tested on numerous occasions, he says, and come through with flying colors.
“The New Year’s Eve tornados, the Good Friday tornados, and we even responded to Joplin Missouri.”
While looking at a 40% reduction in 2012, St. Louis still fared better than Kansas City, which has been cut completely from the program as resources are funneled to large “Tier I” cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
He says the thinking on the national level seems to be that those larger cities deserve a lion’s share of UASI funding because they’re more likely to be terrorist targets, which was the impetus for the program following the 9/11 attacks.
“Every metropolitan area in the United States is a target for terrorist attack,” Gragnani says.
Including St. Louis.
Copyright KMOX Radio