With Putnam County within an hour’s commute of New York City, the metro area cannot become complacent when concerning the threat of terrorist attacks, Putnam County Sheriff Donald Smith said during a first responders’ forum this past Friday.
“We have to make sure we don’t forget the counties outside of New York City—Putnam County is a safe county, it’s a pristine county, it’s very easy to say Putnam doesn’t need any [training] money,” Smith said. “When you look at how Putnam is joined at the hip with New York City, which is ground zero for any future attacks I believe, we need to make sure we don’t forget the suburbs.”
Public officials, local and state police, first responders and other emergency personnel from the New York City-metro area packed the third floor of Putnam’s new Paladin Center for the state Sen. Greg Ball-hosted Law Enforcement and Fire Prevention Roundtable Summit Meeting. Lawmakers and police, fire and anti-terrorism personnel from across the region exchanged ideas for better training and funding opportunities to equip communities with the proper tools and workforce for times of crisis.
The discussion also gave the 40th District state senator an opportunity to introduce the state’s new Commissioner of the Dept. of Homeland Security Jerome M. Hauer. He still awaits confirmation of his appoint by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but the Jan. 6 meeting gave Hauer a preliminary insight to the needs of emergency personnel throughout the Hudson Valley and in New York City.
“I understand a lot of the concerns of the first responder community, both on the law enforcement side and on the fire and EMS side,” Hauer said. “One of the things that I can do is help you get you’re job done as you move forward with these jobs.”
With Paladin, a professional and continuing education company that specializes in public safety and tactical training for first responders, deciding to set up in Carmel, personnel will have the opportunity to train in a proper facility, officials said. Funding, regulation and manpower are only a few of the problems that come with this newfound ability to train close within the region.
Carmel Police Chief Mike Johnson voiced concerns regarding funding for his department’s swat team, which comes with heavy restriction on the money’s use.
“The [homeland security] money that we get from I believe it’s the federal government that gets funneled through the state, there’s restrictions on the money where you can only pay for 50 percent of local personnel,” Johnson said. “With small department like ours, we reimburse ourselves a certain amount of money—we don’t think there should be a restriction on personnel costs, it should be up to us on how that money is distributed.”
Johnson said the federal funds cannot be used for ammunition and flashbacks, which makes it difficult for his department to work within increasingly stringent budgets.
“As a small department and in these tough economic times, it’s a big onus for us with these federal restrictions,” Johnson said. “To lift these regulations would be helpful for local agencies.”
Ball compelled attendees to write letters of concern to their respective representatives in order to figure out ways in becoming more flexible with these federal guidelines.
“When we follow up, it would be helpful to get letters of support from all of the communities in adjusting this, because we can come together as a state,” Ball said. “We can communicate officially with all members of Congress.”
The day’s event ended with a tour of Paladin, which finds it home at the old Guideposts on Seminary Hill in Carmel. The tour included several life, simulated emergency scenarios for attendees.
“Our first responders are the backbone of each municipality across the district, and we need to do everything in our power to make sure that they have the training, funding and support they need to keep New York safe,” Ball said. “Today was an opportunity for each of the leaders in this community to come forward and tell us what they need to remain prepared and strong.”