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Tribes garner $1 million Homeland Security grant

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs has been awarded a $1,069,200 grant under the Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program, as part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s ongoing efforts to support state, local, tribal, and territorial partners

The 2014 Tribal Homeland Security Grant award to Warm Springs will fund two projects: a new telecommunications tower in the Mutton Mountains and an upgrade of the existing two-way radio network to a “simulcast” system.

 

One of seven different grant programs administered by DHS/FEMA, the Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program provides $10 million to eligible tribal nations to implement preparedness initiatives to help strengthen the nation against risk associated with potential terrorist attacks and other hazards.

Dedicated funding is provided for law enforcement and terrorism prevention activities throughout the country to prepare for, prevent, and respond to preoperational activity and other crimes that are precursors or indicators of terrorist activity.

In addition to preventing terrorism and criminal activities, funding for local disasters, including wildfires and floods, are considered in awarding these grants.

Stan Suenaga, manager of the tribes’ public safety branch, who sponsored the grant request, received a telephone call from Washington, D.C., to let him know of the award.

“It was great news for us and a big vote of confidence ... we ended up getting a big chunk of the $10 million funding available in Indian County. It shows that FEMA is happy with how we’ve been systematically upgrading our communications capabilities over the years and that there is more work to be done,” Suenaga said.

Suenaga also explained the impact of the “simulcast” radio system funded by the grant. “This is a sophisticated technology that will allow our first responders to transmit and receive two-way radio communications automatically through the closest tower, rather than requiring them to manually switch between repeaters. It will improve response time for the police and fire departments which ultimately will provide better service to the tribal members living throughout the reservation,” he said.

Dan Martinez, tribal emergency manager, said he was excited when he received notice of the award. He discussed the impact of the planned Mutton Mountains tower for emergency operations.

“With a tower on the Mutton Mountains, we will finally be able to get coverage down along the Deschutes River where we have a lot of boating, fishing and rafting incidents. It will also help our wildland firefighters. Last month, we had to put a firefighter at the top of the Mutton Mountains to relay radio messages from crews fighting the fire along the Deschutes,” Martinez said.

Warm Springs tribal leaders have been working on improving telecommunications since 2002, when the tribes first completed a telecommunications needs assessment. That first assessment determined that telecommunications services were severely limited on the Warm Springs Reservation. It also identified the public safety radio network as the top priority for improvement.

Since that time, the tribes have been working with consultants Adam Haas and Marsha Spellman of Converge Communications, to secure grants that have funded the construction of new towers, upgrades to radio equipment, access to additional frequencies for the tribes’ departments, and essentially expanded and improved the network.

To date, this effort has resulted in a total of $3.8 million dollars in grant funding, including the latest grant award.

This past year, Converge Communications helped the Public Safety Branch to complete a new 2014 Public Safety Communications Plan. The plan is part of a larger Telecommunications Strategic Plan that was approved by Tribal Council in early 2014.

In addition, the Warm Springs Telecommunications Co., which was launched in 2012 to address many of the other telecommunications needs on the reservation, radio station KWSO, will be able to use the tower for additional equipment, to expand the reach of the two tribal services.

Jose Matanane, WST general manager, was pleased to hear about the funding for the Mutton Mountains communications tower.

“Yes, we will definitely want to have our wireless network on the new tower,” he commented. “During the recent wildland fire, we provided phone and wi-fi service to the fire camps through our wireless network. This new tower will extend that capability, as well as help us reach tribal members who live at the edges of the reservation.”



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