Berkeley may not seem like a high priority target for terrorists wielding weapons of mass destruction, but just in case it is, the fire department wants to be prepared.
The City Council will consider an alliance with the cities of Emeryville and Albany to apply for a grant of $120,000 for the purchase of supplies and equipment specifically for “responding to incidents of terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.”
Berkeley’s portion of the grant will be $54,000.
The tri-city alliance will apply to the governor’s Office of Emergency Services, which distributes U.S. Department of Justice funds for equipment for emergency response to large-scale attacks.
According to the council report approved by Fire Chief Reg Garcia, the fire department is currently unable to properly respond to “terrorist acts of biological, chemical or hazardous materials.”
OES spokesperson Sheryl Tankersley said there is about $4.1 million in federal grant funding available in California.
“The money is to buy equipment that will protect and decontaminate first responders, such as firemen and other emergency service providers, in the event of a widespread chemical disaster,” she said.
Garcia said there is no reason to anticipate a terrorist attack. He said the equipment is to make sure the fire department is able to respond to any situation that might arise.
“Other cities an counties have already taken advantage of the grant,” he said. “The City of Oakland, the Alameda Fire Department and the City of San Jose all have a cache of this type of equipment.”
One item the fire department will purchase is antidote kits, which will allow fire fighters and rescue workers to inoculate themselves against anti-nerve agents and other biological hazards, according to the council report.
The kits were issued to soldiers during the Persian Gulf War.
Other items include decontamination equipment such as mobile showers, contamination suits and breathing apparatus.
Mayor Shirley Dean said she thinks it’s a good idea for the fire department to have access to all kinds of emergency equipment.
“Looking at the list of items, I’d say it wouldn’t be used for terrorism; it would more likely be used in case of some kind of toxic spill,” she said.