Carteret, NJ – Mayor Daniel J. Reiman joined with Congressman Albio Sires in announcing that the Borough will receive $62,000 in funding towards local Fire Department equipment upgrades. The award will be provided by the Federal Department of Homeland Security, whose 2007 Fire Act Grant program has allocated approximately $31 million towards local Fire Safety Programs this fiscal year.
The funding will be applied towards the purchase of a range of new equipment and upgrades for the Carteret Fire Department. This will include cartridges for firefighter face masks which provide protection from chemical and biological agents, a Quantitative Fit Test Machine, and SCBA air packs and bottles. In some cases these will upgrade equipment that is now up to 12 years old.
While these items will allow the Borough Fire Department to better comply with OSHA standards, they are expected to dramatically enhance its level of preparedness and quality of service both locally and for the greater region. In 2005, Carteret entered into a Mutual Aid System with the Middlesex Hazardous Materials Unit, sharing its services and helping to provide protection to over 750,000 county residents. Carteret also shares its Fire Department services and resources with Woodbridge Township on a regular basis. From 2004 through 2006, the Carteret F.D. responded to 6,261 calls and emergencies. 354 emergencies were outside of Carteret.
Shared services such as this have become a key component towards improving quality of life standards for towns like Carteret, and the recognition they receive via State and Federal funding. To date, Carteret has entered into or is researching a number of shared services with neighboring Woodbridge and Middlesex County, which include library resources, senior food services, sanitation, and county transportation.
The grant award was presented to Mayor Reiman by Congressman Albio Sires last week.
“This recognition will greatly enhance the level of service and preparedness not just for Carteret,” Mayor Reiman has stated. “but the County as a whole. Shared services have become a major and mutually beneficial factor in the ways municipalities like our own are able to improve public safety and resources. On behalf of our residents, administration, and the Carteret Fire Department, I would like to thank Congressman Albio Sires for his support in obtaining this funding.”
While the Borough’s administration has commended Congressman Sires for his support, it has sustained criticism of the Bush Administration regarding its uneven distribution of Homeland Security funds. According to a FEMA report, relatively rural and agricultural states often received more A.F.G. funding than coastal and more urban “high-risk” states. Alabama, for example, received 220 grant awards for the 2007 fiscal year, totaling $16,640,350, while New Jersey received 87, totaling $9,130,811 ( see http://www.firegrantsupport.com/afg/awards/07/2007afg_winners_states.aspx).
“Northeastern urban communities such as Carteret play host a range of potential hazards, and we should be the primary focus of the Homeland Security agenda. Along with many of our neighbors, Carteret is heavily trafficked along its mile-long Arthur Kill coastline by oil tankers, and along its roads by hazmat vehicles – not to mention the number of hazardous material storage facilities we host. This is an especially volatile area as far as risk assessment is concerned,” Mayor Reiman said.
As is characteristic of this part of Middlesex County, Carteret is home to a considerable number of storage facilities for hazardous substances including oil, jet fuel, gasoline, toxic substances, and other flammables and explosives. With its six petrol chemical plants and 30 storage tanks, it is estimated that over 500 million gallons of petroleum reside in Carteret on any given day. Most of the town’s hazardous materials will make their way to other thoroughfares such as the Conrail “Chemical Coast line” and the New Jersey Turnpike, which pass directly through Carteret. Lying adjacent to many other high-risk zones such as Newark and New York City, and within close proximity to three international airports, Carteret and Middlesex County have long been considered particularly vulnerable to large scale emergencies.
“Each year it becomes more apparent how with total disregard for risk assessment the Bush administration chooses to squander this vital resource for National Security,” Mayor Reiman added. “Homeland Security is as much a concern now as it became in 2001, particularly at the local level for urban communities such as Carteret. Whether there is a partisan motive or not, the bottom line is this funding is repeatedly misappropriated. When a rural community in Ohio is receiving 4 times the funding of one that traffics millions of gallons of petrol daily, it’s time to reevaluate the objectives of Homeland Security, and the standards by which its resources are distributed.”