Are We Better Prepared Since September 11th?

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- A lot of changes have taken place since September 11, 2001.  For those who protect us, like fire and police departments, the tools they use to do their job and their training is different.

"The biggest change is going to be the increased training and security measures brought on by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security," said Jonesboro 911 Director Jeff Presley.

"We always pay attention to our surroundings, but now we have more training on what to look for," said Lt. Roy Coleman of the Jonesboro Police Department.

"There's been a lot of access to different grants for equipment for hazardous materials response and for terrorism," said Kevin Miller, Division Chief for Training for the Jonesboro Fire Department.

For the Jonesboro 911 center, Jonesboro Police Department, and Jonesboro Fire Department lessons learned seven years ago on September 11th have led to better organization and preparation.

"Every first responder, dispatcher, police officer, fire fighter, EMT is now NIMS certified, which stands for National Incident Management System," said Presley.

The Homeland Security Department, formed after 9/11, is responsible for a lot of the grant money given out to these agencies.  Before 9/11, the fire department had one trailer of hazmat gear, but now they have two and a truck filled with equipment.

"Having this equipment and having the training makes us better prepared for the future," said Miller.

"We have secured some trailers for equipment storage for our swat unit," said Coleman.

The police department is also trying to get gas masks for each of their officers.  Before the attacks seven years ago, the need for gas masks was never really thought of for every officer, but now they are working on getting the funding needed to buy them.

"For the event of an attack or something of that nature, we would have some self protection equipment," said Coleman.

Another great tool that has come out of the past seven years is the AWIN System, which stands for the Arkansas Wireless Information Network.

"It provides us the ability, in the event of a large disaster or a large incident, to be able to have better communications with different agencies from across the state," said Miller.

These changes have really had a positive impact on smaller fire and police departments that never had the funding for more specialized training or equipment before.  Volunteer fire departments across Region 8 now have to take more advanced training to keep up to date, but can also purchase more advanced equipment and fire trucks to serve their communities.