Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced a $233 million dollar initiative to fund counterterrorism and emergency relief efforts across New York state.
The funding, provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), hopes to sustain regional aid, recovery and response tactics in times of crisis. As part of this statewide plan, Oswego County will receive $195,000 to combat terrorism and support emergency aid in the local area.
“New York continues to be a target for terrorism and we must ensure there is adequate funding to prepare, plan and prevent,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement.
The homeland security grants provide training and exercises for first responders and equipment purchases. The federal standard requires 25 percent of each county’s total award be directed toward law enforcement terrorism prevention activities, according to Cuomo’s office.
“This funding will help defend the state against those who wish to do harm and will support our first responders who are called upon when emergency strikes,” the governor said.
Rep. John Katko of New York’s 24th congressional district explained that Cuomo’s program will promote the protection and well-being of future volunteers.
“These much-needed funds will ensure that first-responders across Central New York are better equipped to prepare for, prevent and respond to potential emergencies in our community,” Katko said.
Over 8 million U.S residents abide in New York, the second highest ranking state for terrorist attacks, and the first with the nation’s leading terrorist mortality rate, according to the Global Terrorism Database, a tracking site of terrorist incidents since 1970, created by START: A Center of Excellence of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In a report by the Global Terrorism Database, 492 terrorist attacks occurred in New York from 1970 to 2011.
Neil Sheehan is the public affairs officer for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a program which filters a two-unit nuclear plant six miles from the city of Oswego. Sheehan explained that terrorism is a highly contested issue that requires diplomatic change.
“Emergency preparedness and security issues have received significant attention from the NRC in the last decade and a half,” Sheehan said.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, which included 12 Oswego state alumni, Sheehan explained that the NRC increased security measures for extra-regional protection. Sheehan further explained that increased federal aid would supplement the state policies that are in progress.
“Additional funding would help better prepare communities in the vicinity of nuclear power plants for accidents,” Sheehan said. “Other emergencies would serve to strengthen the already robust response infrastructure already in place.”
Though New York City is roughly 300 miles from Oswego County, the reign of terror has gone far beyond the Big Apple. In 2009, the Oswego City School District received two bomb threats in a two-week period.
Due to the severity of the threat, the students’ classes were disrupted four times. The threats, which proved to be a false alarm, cost the administration valuable time and money, according to the Oswego City School District and county police documents.
However, the city of Oswego is not the only region victimized by terrorism. Just recently, in Clinton, Hamilton College, a private liberal arts university, experienced a bomb and shooting threat over the phone on Monday, according to Syracuse.com.
Freshman and human resource management major, Jessica Guzman, explained that a bomb threat at her former elementary school caused the then 9-year-old inherent fear and terror.
“Everyone was scared,” Guzman recalled. “We thought it was a fire drill and they made us stand outside for three hours. They said someone [was] is in the building, it is a stranger and it might be a bomb.”
As bomb threats become a presiding issue for local school authorities, junior and education major Denecia George is concerned that the harsh weather conditions will leave residents ill-prepared in emergency situations.
“We need to be prepared. I have seen the natural disasters this winter build up and there was no plan.” George said. “If something on a larger scale was to happen what are we going to do? I don’t know if the local authorities will put the money to use.”