Snow Cone Machines for Homeland Security

When you give out money based on politics, without any accounting, this is what you get:

The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission (WMSRDC) is a federal- and state-designated agency responsible for managing and administrating the homeland security program in Montcalm County and 12 other counties.

The WMSRDC recently purchased and transferred homeland security equipment to these counties—including 13 snow cone machines at a total cost of $11,700.

Wait. It gets funnier:

“It is used to attract people so they can be educated and prepared for homeland security,” Dey said from his office in Muskegon. “More importantly, they (homeland security officials) felt in a medical emergency the machine was capable of making ice packs which could be used for medical purposes.”

This is excellent commentary.

Posted on December 16, 2011 at 11:21 AM35 Comments


Dave C. December 16, 2011 11:46 AM

Well it could have been much worse. They could have purchased a Ski slope with snow making equipment.

jammit December 16, 2011 11:50 AM

This will send shivers down the terrorists spine.

In an attempt to find some sanity in all of this, I will take an unpopular position and defend it.

I suppose $900 a machine isn’t too bad when compared to the rest that was wasted. Heck, even when we wise up and stop this war on “terror”, the machines might still be used at state fairs, or maybe a “meet a cop and get a free Sno-cone” day.

Jack December 16, 2011 12:03 PM

Additional proof on that terrorists ARE destroying America. Not just in a manner (or from a direction) that would make a good thriller.

(It would be a tragicomedy)

Kevin December 16, 2011 12:07 PM

Thanks very much for citing Lowering the Bar and more importantly for your own blog.

Note also that not only did they buy snow-cone machines, they seem to have overpaid significantly.

Somebody did suggest another use for these, to be fair, saying that we could replace waterboarding with giving detainees a “brain freeze.” Although I think probably we need Slurpee machines for that.

zorro December 16, 2011 12:13 PM

From the article linked to Bruce’s post:
“Feldpausch [also] said the machine could be useful at the scene of a large fire.”

So in the event of a large fire we can now also expect to hear the jingle of an ice cone truck?

Roxanne December 16, 2011 12:41 PM

Would anyone have felt differently about coffee makers? Have a refreshment, and listen to our propaganda, er, helpful information….

Mark R December 16, 2011 1:19 PM

I for one would rather have a snow cone than more CCTV cameras, “See something, say something” ad campaigns, or whatever else these funds are conventionally spent on.

Yeah, I guess in an ideal world, the government would redirect these funds to meet some actual need, but I think this is about as well as we’re going to do.

Dirk Praet December 16, 2011 2:04 PM

In case someone from DHS is listening in:

Do you have an affiliate in Belgium and whom can I write to obtain funding for our municipal ice skating rink that some b*stard local politician saw fit to close ? We will allow you to use the Zamboni to interrogate suspects while pretty girls are figure skating in the background. Here’s your chance to go global !

Stephen Carpenter December 16, 2011 2:28 PM

@Dirk as a taxpayer here in the US, I am pretty sure fixing a municipal skate rink in Belgium is AT LEAST as good a use for DHS money as ANYTHING else they do. In fact, the good will it would get us from your one city is probably worth more than everything else they do…combined.

Chris December 16, 2011 2:38 PM

I happen to work in a lab, and they do have several “snow cone machines” in them. Ours were not purchased via homeland security as we are privately owned, however they do have their use and nobody whatsoever uses that ice for consumption.

I caught this same story on Colbert the other night and then I saw an image of it and realized what they were talking about. Its far from a “snow cone machine”.

Thomas December 16, 2011 4:20 PM

“one county requested a popcorn machine, but that request was denied.”

Popcorn has good energy absorbing properties, it makes a great packing material.

If an ice-shaving machine is justified based on it’s utility in a mayor fire then surely we can propose using a popcorn machine to create ad-hoc crash barriers.

Snarki, child of Loki December 16, 2011 4:45 PM


Note also that not only did they buy snow-cone machines, they seem to have overpaid significantly.

They bought it from the same vendor that the DOD uses for toilet seats. DHS needs milspec, dammit!

NE Patriot December 16, 2011 10:51 PM

So there are a couple of observations.
1. Can “homeland security” also cover run of the mill life and safety concerns? Last I knew, the Coast Guard operates under DHS, and as far as I know, they’re still all about going out in nasty weather to help distressed mariners.
2. Apart from making yummy deserts, can a sno-cone machine make shaved ice that’s useful for other purposes? If, for example, a monstrous heat-wave swooped in, could the local boards of health use them in emergency cooling centres?
3. When the CDC created a zombie-themed comic book (in PDF form) that related to emergency preparedness, they got a lot of positive attention, and I’m sure a lot of people downloaded and read the comic. I think in terms of eyeballs attracted to their message, it was successful beyond their wildest imaginings.

I don’t know how the homeland security folks in Michigan operate, but if they’re sponsoring free sno-cones in the summer for anyone wanting to learn about generic disaster preparedness (read: 72 hour kits, making your home disaster-resistant, etc) then I’m all for it. Too many people take a “someone else will save me” attitude, and I think it’s time to change that. The way to win the hearts and minds is through the tummy.

Clive Robinson December 17, 2011 2:12 AM

@ Dirk Praet,

“… while pretty girls are figure skating in the background.”

As the Winter Solstice is almost upon us and the attendant season of festive cheer usually involves one or two glasses of restorative / preventative liquid to keep out the cold and chills, whilst providing an inner glow.

One of lifes little imponderables to pleasantly occupy your mind after the restorative has started to work,

Is it the figure skating that makes girls pretty, or is it a sport that attracts pretty girls?

Either way enjoy the contemplative moment, and the rest of the festivities *<80)}

Mary December 18, 2011 11:08 AM

@NE Patriot the shaved ice machine could indeed be useful in emergency heat-related settings. That’s actually how it would be used at the scene of a large fire–not to combat the fire, but to help cool the firefighters as they are rotated out of active fire fighting into a brief rest period before being sent back in. (This process is called rehab.) IME, finely crushed ice in a bag works a lot better than big chunks of ice when used as an icepack.

Bruce Clement December 18, 2011 3:11 PM

4 or 5 years ago I was on a driving vacation around south east Queensland and on long distance routes there were stops set up where you could stop for a free instant coffee or softdrink.

This was sponsored by the state traffic police and a service club (Lions IIRC). I stopped at one and asked about it, they saw it as a cost effective way to get the road safety message about having frequent breaks on long trips.

Possibly the ice machines are intended to serve a similar purpose.

Birch Thompson December 19, 2011 4:22 AM


So in the event of a large fire we can now also expect to hear the jingle of an ice cone truck?

A few years ago the company I worked for had regular fire drills and almost as many “real” alarms [mainly due to old wiring in the building and local overloads – the place really was past its prime]

One regular feature of it was, in good weather at least, the appearance of an ice cream van (often before the fire engines arrived).

You had to admire the entrepreneurial spirit of the guy, listening in on emergency channels and realising that there’d be a ‘captive audience’ of people standing around outside for a while.

jacob December 19, 2011 2:25 PM

Cute. Muskegon is too small to be one of the big herring. Still can’t eat more than one fish a week. Going on 30yrs there since foundries were closed.

Small potatoes, might want to check Deer Park, though. Maybe there are some penquins named skipper, kowalski, private, and rico living there now. They just want a snowcone machine.

I would make blowhole villain and homeland security joke, but that’s too easy. 🙂

Doug Coulter December 21, 2011 6:34 PM

Aren’t those things in little cups that look like dunce caps?

That’s it! They’re buying dunce caps via the back door!

Now, what do we suppose they need them for?

Adam Malter December 23, 2011 5:29 PM

It strikes me a tad hypocritical for folks who point out governmental overreactions having a bit of an overreaction themselves.

As many commentators have pointed out, shaved ice machines are very useful anywhere with a high risk of heat stress injuries. This includes, firemen rehabbing, at the first aid booth at large summer gathers, cooling centers during heat waves, etc, etc.

This is exactly the kind of meat and potatoes generally useful item I wish DHS and local emergency departments purchased. (as opposed to the fun to play with assault rifles and other ‘let’s play army’ crap you normally see.

Bruce December 24, 2011 10:07 AM

They could have purchased a Ski slope with snow making equipment.

Cool. Where do I sign up?

Seriously, I’d rather they were purchasing snow cone machines than equipping the local constabulary with military hardware.

Les Nessman December 24, 2011 2:22 PM

If it made bacon-flavored sno cones then it would be both anti-terrorism and a million dollar idea.

ron nord December 24, 2011 4:12 PM

The Chinese Communists have the same type of economic crimes there but when they catch an apparatchiki making money grabs they recycle the miscreants in the organ banks and recoup the theft of the People’s money. The Democrats would applaud this as fits in with their plans.

Paul Krugman of the New York Times a great admirer of everything Chinese chi-com should be one of the first recycled for wasting the Peoples time with his marxist propaganda.

West MI December 28, 2011 9:46 AM

I live in West Michigan where the summers are hot and HUMID. Believe me, taking a trip to Phoenix, Arizona in August was a relief for me. A snowcone machine would be welcome by me, however I’m not a member of the elite that gets to spend other peoples’ money. I guess I will have to “get by” with my blender and hand-made “artisan” ice cubes.

Thank you.

Overcast January 1, 2012 11:47 AM

Our politicians and bureaucrats will destroy our country and way of life long before terrorists can.

Texas Jack January 16, 2012 1:00 PM

I’m guessing that 9 months of the year it is fairly cool to completely frozen in Michigan. So having these extra ice machines makes even more sense! Who wants a snow cone while we ice skate! Duh..
Maybe, and I’m stretching here, maybe you could make sense of snow cone systems in the south, but there are many a better way to get people’s attention.

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.