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Updated: January 25, 2024

USM gets funding to beef up campus emergency readiness

USM police cruiser on campus Photo / Courtesy of USM The University of Southern Maine Department of Public Safety will use money from two grants to improve emergency readiness on and around its campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston.

The University of Southern Maine's public safety department said it will use federal funding to improve emergency readiness on and around the school's campuses.

Funding comes from the State Homeland Security Program, which awarded a $10,000 grant exclusively to USM. It will also share a second, $30,000 grant with 16 other entities.

A spokesman for USM was unable to say how the second grant will be divided, only that the money will pay for activities that the group will be conducting in cooperation with each other.

USM said will use the funding over three years to pay for drills simulating natural disasters and human threats at the school's campuses in Portland, Lewiston and Gorham.

“I'm convinced that a well-prepared community is key to a safer campus,” said Gráinne Perkins, executive director of the public safety department and chief of campus police. “While this grant will help tackle our safety needs right now, it will also ensure everyone leaves here with safety smarts that stick around for life.”
Participation is not limited to campus police officers. The drills will require partner agencies, including neighboring police and fire departments, communications centers, and medical responders, to interact with the USM police just as during a real emergency. 
“USM Department of Public Safety is an excellent partner,” said Michael Durkin, director of the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency. “In the event of an attack on campus, they would be the first to respond to it. That's an important duty. Through this grant, they've shown commitment to preparing for that duty.”

University faculty, staff and students will act out assigned roles in the drills. 

The money comes from a pool of Homeland Security Grant Funds that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency award annually to states.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency administers the money at the state level by allocating SHSP grants to Maine’s 16 counties and six metro regions. Since 1999, the agency has distributed more than $100 million in grants.
“With this grant, we can bring in top-notch tech, resources and skills from our partners,” said Perkins. “It's like a behind-the-scenes upgrade that'll make us super ready for whatever comes our way, even if folks don't realize it at first glance.”

USM, part of the public University of Maine System, is ranked No. 3 among Maine's largest colleges and universities in the 2024 Mainebiz Book of Lists, based on undergraduate enrollment in fall 2023.

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