Two El Paso County emergency preparedness groups have won grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They were two of 30 winners in the Community Resilience Innovation Challenge program from more than 1900 applicants across the nation, FEMA officials announced.
Western Cyber Exchange (WCX) of Colorado Springs, a nonprofit organization that shares cybersecurity information among businesses and government agencies, won an award of $34,873. WCX is a leading public-private, non-profit, regional (including Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming) cybersecurity preparedness and coordination organization that serves as an interface between government and industry. In its proposal, WCX plans to leverage its community cyber threat information by launching a more effective secure online web portal. The portal will provide near-real-time cyber-attack trends, analysis, and defense measures for WCX members in the community.
Crystal Park Homeowners Association, which owns 1800 acres and includes 220 homes on the eastern flank of Pikes Peak, adjacent to Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs, won an award of $11,650. The association represents an area of steep, mountainous terrain in the wildland-urban interface. After last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire narrowly spared their community, the association sponsored a town hall meeting with the Crystal Park Metro District and Crystal Park Volunteer Fire Department to see how they could be better prepared for wildfires. That led to the present project, a lightning location and analysis system that will give early warning of potential wildfires. Sensors will be installed by Vaisala, Inc., an international company headquartered in Finland that specializes in weather measurement. The system will automatically send an email message when lightning strikes within a defined area and pinpoint its location within approximately 750 feet. Information on the location, intensity, and whether it is positive or negative (positive lightning is considered more dangerous) will be combined with the current fire risk to assess the likelihood of a fire, and that will be communicated to the fire department. The award will be used to install the system, which will be sustained through an annual subscription to Vaisala’s National Lightning Detection Network, which the association has already budgeted for.
“Our grants help communities prepare for disaster in a wide variety of ways,” explained FEMA Region VIII Acting Administrator Doug Gore. “The Crystal Park association saw their chief concern was wildfire, they found a high-tech way to lower the risk, and they were ready to invest in it themselves. WCX offers a collaborative way to fight cybercrime. Both cases show local innovation and investment.”
The Community Resilience Innovation Challenge program focuses on building local community resilience to man-made and natural disasters, with an emphasis on innovation, collaboration with community stakeholders, sustainability, repeatability and measurable benefits to the community.
“The best resiliency ideas originate from our states and tribal nations,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “The goal of this effort is to further empower communities to collaborate and develop innovative approaches to effectively respond to disasters.”
The program is being funded by The Rockefeller Foundation and administered by the Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Foundation, which acted as a third-party intermediary to encourage local communities to engage in creative activities that enhance disaster resilience. Funding levels ranged to a maximum award level of $35,000, and applications were open to most local, state, and tribal agencies and governments; business entities; associations; organizations and groups.