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FEMA workshop held to boost Augusta disaster preparedness

Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014 6:16 PM
Last updated Thursday, Aug 14, 2014 1:23 AM
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 After a winter in which most of east-central Georgia was crippled by an ice storm, officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency visited Augusta on Wednesday to share inside tips on how counties could win grants and buy equipment to better combat natural disasters.

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Bob Merrill, who works with mitigation and public assistance grant programs, delivers a presentation during a Federal Emergency Management Agency Grants workshop on campus at Augusta Technical College.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Bob Merrill, who works with mitigation and public assistance grant programs, delivers a presentation during a Federal Emergency Management Agency Grants workshop on campus at Augusta Technical College.

More than 30 grant writers from Richmond, Bulloch, Effingham, Laurens, Candler and Tattnall counties attended a workshop that U.S. Rep. John Barrow held to help communities understand funding opportunities available through FEMA.

Though public assistance grants were discussed, most of the workshop focused on requesting FEMA funding to reduce the impact of future emergencies.

Including a $4.8 million reimbursement announced Wednesday, Augusta is set to receive $11.5 million from FEMA for February’s ice storm according to Barrow’s office, but the funding was not without controversy. The city initially hired AshBritt, a debris-hauling company from Florida, under a no-bid contract to remove ice debris, while Columbia County had pre-disaster bids in place.

“I believe it was President Eisenhower who once said, ‘In preparing for battle, plans are useless, but planning is indispensable,’ ” Barrow told the crowd. “In disasters, you have to improvise, and the more planning you can do ahead of time, the better you can improvise.”

With Augusta fire and emergency management divisions falling under one department, a lot of attention was placed on FEMA’s upcoming grant cycle in which $734 million will be awarded to public safety agencies in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky for firefighter equipment, staffing and prevention.

The grant application period starts Nov. 3 and lasts 30 days. Winners of the $360 million in firefighter assistance, $340 million in adequate staffing and $34 million in fire prevention grants will be announced Feb. 9 through their congressional offices, said Alma Christian, FEMA’s regional fire program specialist in Atlanta.

Christian reminded county officials in attendance that firefighter assistance grants require a 10 percent funding match for communities that have populations between 20,000 and 1 million people, including special events, such as the Masters Tournament. She said FEMA is not offering money this year for used or refurbished vehicles.

“Don’t just sit around and procrastinate,” said Christian, who has worked for FEMA for 28 years. ”Get your applications in early.”

She said the trick to winning grants is to include budget summaries and real-life examples in applications of how federal funding will help protect residents and critical infrastructure, such as major highways and railroads. At times, she recommended quoting FEMA’s guidebook verbatim.

“The trick is to tell us what we want to hear,” she said.

More funding

U.S. Rep. John Barrow announced Wednesday that Richmond County would receive $4.8 million in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for debris removal from February’s ice storm. The funding is in addition to more than $6.7 million awarded to the county last month, and Barrow said more could be made in the future.

In addition, Columbia County received $4.5 million in FEMA funding for ice-storm debris removal. It now has received $7.5 million in state and federal reimbursement, said Pam Tucker, its emergency operations director.

“We appreciate FEMA and Congressman John Barrow for the great efforts to secure these funds which will help Richmond County recoup some of the costs of cleanup we incurred earlier this year,” said Mie Lucas, the disaster preparedness coordinator for the Richmond County Emergency Management Agency. “We have more work to do to get FEMA to reimburse what we spent, but we’re well on our way. We’ll continue to work with our federal partners to ensure our region gets the assistance we need from the aftermath of this severe weather.”

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Dixieman 08/13/14 - 10:21 pm
Oh, great

More FEMA.
Thanks, John Barrow.
Suggest you get some cardboard boxes to get ready to move your stuff out of your office in DC after the November election.

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