PORT DEPOSIT — U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen made two stops in Cecil County Monday to see where his efforts to support funding programs in public safety and education are at work.
Water Witch Fire Company
He first visited Water Witch Fire Company in Port Deposit, then traveled to Cecil College.
Just as Wayne Tome was about to show Van Hollen the automated cardiopulmonary resuscitation device purchased for the 175-year-old fire company with grant money made available with assistance from the senator, an alarm sounded inside the North Main Street headquarters alerting volunteers to a person in cardiac arrest.
Van Hollen watched in awe as volunteers quickly grabbed the piece of equipment from its display position, along with a defibrillator that was also on display, and bolted out the door.
For Tome, who is the mayor of Port Deposit and also chief of the Water Witch emergency medical services corps, it proved to the senator the value of the more than $1 million the fire company has received from the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) programs made available by the federal government.
“We’re very happy with it,” Tome said, scanning several tables holding the grant funded equipment including the most recent purchases of 48 new breathing apparatuses and a new Rapid Intervention Team pack. Water Witch was awarded a $407,000 grant for that equipment.
Van Hollen said Congress will continue to fund these programs.
“Both the House and Senate have over $350 million set aside for both AFG and SAFER,” he said. “We can see how important it is to communities.”
Thanks to the grants WWFC has replaced its turnout gear, fire suppression hoses, a tanker truck and has added a laundry system for its turnout gear.
“We need to provide the funds they need for the equipment to get the job done,” the senator said.
Van Hollen tried on the breathing apparatus and a new wireless headset used by the commander at each fire scene. He also had his hands on the new countywide radios, which Tome told him has made remarkable improvements in communication in the western end.
“We can now hear even inside these granite buildings,” he said, pointing to former Jacob Tome Institute building across the street from the historic station house, which is now an apartment complex.
Cyber Security at Cecil College
At Cecil College, Van Hollen met with students in the Cyber Security program, which was certified by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security in September. Alvin Figueroa told the senator he is on a mission to be tops in the field, starting with Cecil College.
“I want to get every certification I can possibly get,” Figueroa, from Elkton, said. Eventually he wants to get his masters and then a doctorate in cyber security.
“I want to work my butt off and make sure everyone is secure,” he said. “People out there are scared of the internet. I don’t want anyone walking around being scared.”
James Morgan, professor of computer sciences, said the certification of academic excellence “absolutely raises the bar” for the college.
“It identifies us as an institution that meets those standards and aligns us with 270 other institutions of higher learning from associates to doctoral programs,” Morgan said.
Katherine Eisenhuth said she feels being in this field is another way to serve her country.
“I love this field because it’s constantly changing,” she told Van Hollen. After Cecil, she plans to pursue a bachelors degree at Stevenson University.
Brittany Barnett entered Cecil College to study computer programming but was introduced to cyber security by one of her instructors.
“I found out I like cyber security better,” Barnett said, adding she is now pursuing a dual major.
Van Hollen brought up the topic of terrorism, mentioning events including the hijacking of Baltimore City’s computer network, which crippled the city for weeks afterward.
“Have you ever tried to hack into the college computers as an exercise?” he asked the students. They reported they had uncovered and addressed vulnerabilities they found, although it wasn’t really hacking.
“The weakest link in cyber security is people,” Morgan explained. He said people know which neighborhoods are safer than others. The same sensibility is needed for the worldwide web, he said.
“We the public need find ways to protect ourselves,” he said.
“That’s especially true with the Internet of Things, which has so many of our everyday devices attached to the web with little to no accountability.”
“You don’t think of someone hacking into your refrigerator,” Eisenhuth said.
“Or your baby monitor,” Barnett added.
Van Hollen told the students he was excited and pleased to see them so interested and passionate about the field.
“Maryland is now the national center for cyber security. The need is critical,” he said. “I’m glad you’re on the front lines.”