Agencies awarded grants

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., recently announced three Shelby County agencies will be awarded grants to invest in state-of-the-art investigative equipment.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency will award $501,200 to 40 police, sheriff and fire departments across Alabama. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Pelham police and fire departments are among the recipients.

The grant is awarded through the fiscal year 2008 Emergency Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program, which aims to enhance regional response capabilities by providing technology, equipment and training to law enforcement and emergency responders.

The Pelham Fire Department will receive $31,000, the second highest amount among the 40 recipients.

Fire Chief Danny Endress credited Battalion Chief Blair Sides for filing the necessary paperwork.

The agencies will not receive a signed check, but rather an order of equipment that equals the grant amount, Endress said.

The fire department requested an advanced chemical identifier for its hazardous materials unit.

“It’s a very in-depth, precise piece of equipment,” Endress said. “And for $31,000, it should tell us exactly what it is.”

Currently, the haz-mat unit identifies potentially harmful chemicals by administering a chemical lab. Sides said the process requires much skill and time.

“[The identifier] was probably one of our largest needs,” Sides said. “This gives us the ability to identify unknown chemicals out in the field and determines what it is right there on the spot.”

Sides said the chemical identifier will not only aid emergency situations in Pelham, but throughout Shelby County.

“We’re in agreement that we respond to all of Shelby County with our haz-mat unit, so this will benefit all of Shelby County, not just Pelham,” Sides said.

Endress said the chemical identifier will arrive in six weeks. The haz-mat unit will then receive training to operate the device.

The Pelham Police Department and Shelby County Sheriff’s Office will also each receive $8,000.

After attending a grant writing seminar in Tennessee, Pelham Sergeant David Rushton and Training Coordinator Mike Roberts began submitting grant applications.

Both gentlemen are convinced the seminar paid off.

The police department requested a mini thermal monocular, a device that detects body heat in dark areas, Roberts said.

The device can be used for a wide range of missions, from reconnaissance to search and rescue operations.

“I think this piece of equipment will help us do our jobs better,” Roberts said. “You can view images through smoke, wooded areas or low light. It can be utilized by all our divisions and it’s easily portable.”

The sheriff’s office’s grant will go towards a night vision surveillance system, said Sheriff Chris Curry.

Curry was notified of the grant last week, but he could not give a definite date on when the system will arrive.