ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) – In the wake of the September 11th attacks, Missouri was given millions of dollars for protective gear for first responders.
KMOX News has learned — ten years later no one at the state level seems to have an inventory of what’s still available if we suffer another attack.
A state audit in 2006 focused on federal homeland security money channeled through Missouri’s Department of Public Safety.
The department — through the State Emergency Management Agency — distributed personal protective equipment worth more than $9 million to EMS services and law enforcement agencies. We’re talking about some 19,000 sets of gear, including breathing masks, chemical suits, gloves, boots and other accessories.
Among other things, the 2006 audit highlighted a lack of accurate record keeping by SEMA and another agency it had contracted with to get the kits in the right hands. It would seem to this day, the agencies have never fully accounted for the devices and chemical suits.
KMOX News contacted the Department of Public Safety’s spokesperson in August, who first replied in an e-mail that these grants were from two administrations ago and that the state itself didn’t receive any equipment.
When we contacted that spokesperson by phone this week and asked to speak with anyone in an official capacity about the whereabouts of the gear, we were told “none of the current administration had anything to do with this”, but we were welcome to try and contact someone from a past administration who had.
When we continued to ask why, for example, someone at the state level wouldn’t want to know what was available in the event of a catastrophe or attack, we were told we obviously didn’t understand the situation — that this equipment is handled at the regional and local level.
KMOX News asked again whether anyone in the Homeland Security wing of Public Safety, for example, could talk to us and answer — why wouldn’t someone at the state level have a sense of where essential chemical protective equipment might be located around the state? We were told the Office of Homeland Security in Missouri’s primary mission is as a grant administrator. Yet the Department of Public Safety’s own website mentions a Homeland Security Advisory Council established to review state and local security plans and make recommendations for changes to better protect Missourians.
The question remains, where are 19,000 sets of protective gear? Apparently no one at the state level knows.
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