Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tech gets $23 million grant

By John Larson

SOCORRO – New Mexico Tech has been awarded a $23 million federal grant to continue its first responder program for the Department of Homeland Security.
John Meason, Director of Tech’s Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, told the Mountain Mail the first responder program has become the nation’s top training center for law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, and military personnel.
“We serve as the training facility for all 50 states and U.S. territories,” Meason said. “The appropriation will fund the first responder program through next fiscal year. Like any other agency with the government, the money is appropriated on a yearly basis.
The main courses offered are Incident Response to Terrorist Bombing (IRTB), and Incident response to Suicide Bombing (IRSB).
“The terrorist bombing courses are held here in Socorro, and the suicide bombing is covered down at Playas,” Meason said.
Tech Vice President of Research Van Romero said the first responder program has continued to grow since its inception in 1998.
“This program brings first responders from all 50 states and U.S. territories to Socorro for an advanced training for any situation involving explosives,” Romero said. “We’ve been focusing on terrorist acts, but we probably will start to evolve beyond that into other situations, to all hazards.”
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Romero said “up to 50,000 people have come to EMRTC for the training [since 1998],”
“This week we have a big program for bomb squads,” he said. “It’s v very rigorous weeklong program. We train in all kinds of explosive devices up to, and including, car bombs.”
During this type of training Socorrans are used to hearing booms from ‘M’ Mountain.
In the recent past, during certain atmospheric conditions, the loudest booms were from the diamond shots at the base of Strawberry Peak.
The diamond shots were moved to EMRTC’s facilities in Playas last year.
Romero said he was surprised to learn that residents in Deming, 70 miles from Playas, heard the shots.
“It was a surprise to us. Since the Playas facility is so far from Deming we didn’t think it was necessary to check the atmospheric conditions, but apparently the sound carried one day,” he said.
Romero said he was scheduling to attend an upcoming Deming City Council meeting to explain the program – and the sounds.

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