Gov: State to heighten security measures
by Christina A. Cassidy
Associated Press Writer
April 18, 2013 12:01 AM | 588 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ATLANTA — Top state officials are staying in close contact with federal authorities investigating the Boston bombings and suspicious letters sent to federal officials, and are enhancing security measures where needed, Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday.

“We have heightened and tightened security measures on an internal basis,” Deal said, adding that includes instructions to employees on how to handle incoming mail.

The head of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency is working with federal authorities, taking advice on where to increase security and then coordinating with state and local authorities to take action, Deal said. That includes increasing security at events with large crowds.

“They have suggested at certain events that we heighten our security on the state level. We are complying with that request,” Deal said. “I am not at liberty to say which specific ones, but it would be the ones you would typically think of where there are larger numbers of individuals at any one place at a time.”

Authorities continue to investigate Monday’s explosions at the Boston Marathon and letters sent this week to President Barack Obama and a Mississippi senator that have preliminarily tested positive for ricin. At least three more questionable packages were discovered in Senate office buildings in Washington, D.C., along with reports of suspicious letters at senators’ state offices in Arizona and Michigan. GEMA/Homeland Security Director Charley English said there were no additional threats associated with Monday’s bombings and encouraged the public to remain vigilant.

“Our best weapon against terrorism is you,” English said in a statement Wednesday. “If you see something that doesn’t look right, report it to local authorities.”

When it comes to paying for enhanced security, the funds will probably be a combination of state and local funds, the governor said. Federal funds are dwindling. In 2010, GEMA received $19.2 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to enhance emergency preparation and response. Last year, the state received $4.9 million in federal funds.

The funds were used to help establish 15 Georgia Search and Rescue Teams across the state that respond to major emergencies, including tornadoes. Money was also used to add GPS and wireless Internet capabilities to a majority of public ambulances statewide, GEMA spokesman Ken Davis said.

“Even when the money was flowing abundantly, we knew that wouldn’t last forever,” Davis said. “We’ve built up a lot of capabilities that we didn’t have before but now with the cuts we’re faced with, we are still able to maintain the capabilities that we acquired. We just can’t expand, or build out any new capabilities.”

Deal acknowledged the difficult financial reality.

“We don’t have a lot of extra money at the state level, that’s pretty obvious,” Deal said. “We’ve been operating on a bare-bones budget and I don’t see that changing any time in the near future. I think what it does require us to do is to prioritize and there is nothing wrong with that.”
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