Thursday, November 1, 2001
Council Panel Approves $1 Million Request for Emergency Equipment
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
A City Council committee yesterday recommended approval of a $1 million wish list from the Threat Preparedness Task Force to buy more emergency equipment to prepare for a terrorist attack on Los Angeles.
The task force was created to evaluate Los Angeles’ ability to respond to potential and actual terrorist attacks, presented a list of items to the Budget and Finance Committee yesterday that it considers “critical” to the city’s preparedness preparation.
“We believe this is a very good first step for protecting the people who put themselves on the line,” Assistant City Administrative Officer Bill Koenig said. Koenig is also co-chair of the task force.
Included in the list are additional bomb-sniffing dogs for the Los Angeles Police Department and “escape masks” that would protect emergency workers who are first on the scene from biological and chemical weapons. The total amount approved was $1,039,990.
“This is not the gilded lily of threat preparedness,” Councilman Jack Weiss, who helped create the task force and introduced approval of the list, said. “This is just getting us to where we can respond to the number of calls we’ve been receiving.”
Both the LAPD and the Los Angeles Fire Department have called the Draeager “DefendAir” escape mask a “critical piece of equipment” for emergency personnel to escape a biological or chemical attack, but supplies are low, with only 3,000 of the masks available for purchase, a spokesman for Weiss said.
“Some of this equipment is now in high demand,” Alan Paul said. “Warehouses are running out very quickly.”
If the list is approved by City Council, the city’s fire department will be given $130,000 to buy 1,300 “DefendAir” escape masks.
It would also give LAPD $869,900 to buy 1,700 masks for field officers and add equipment to expand its Hazardous Materials/Environmental Crimes Unit.
The motion also includes giving $40,000 to the LAPD to buy four additional bomb sniffing dogs.
Police Chief Bernard Parks said the new dogs will be placed in the Civic Center area in response to the high number of calls received by the department in recent weeks from downtown.
“This will give us an immediate response to the increased number of bomb callouts,” Parks said. “We believe it will enhance our operation.”
In the month following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the LAPD bomb squad has responded to 375 calls, almost three times the amount of calls the squad deals with in a busy month, Sgt. John Pasquariello said.
Of those calls, 247 were airport related, he said. The bomb sniffing dogs currently used by LAPD are owned by the airport, not the department.
Eighty percent of the dogs’ time is spent at the airport with the remaining 20 percent spent responding to calls throughout the city.
The equipment covered by Weiss’ motion will be used by already existing personnel, but there is a possibility that additional personnel could be hired if the need arises, he said.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company