Tuesday, September 18, 2001
Council Panel Urges City Officials to Improve Disaster Preparedness Plans
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Members of a City Council committee yesterday urged city officials to focus on preparing the city for future emergencies and not to dwell on how well the city’s emergency response worked in the wake of last week’s East Coast terrorist attacks.
“I think now is not the time to be patting ourselves on the back in how well we as a city responded,” Councilman Jack Weiss, a member of the Public Safety Committee, said. “Because, frankly, we didn’t have anything to respond to.”
Representatives from the Los Angeles Police and Fire Departments and the city’s Emergency Preparedness Department said the city’s response to the threat of terrorist activity went according to plan, but committee members asked them to go beyond the current plan.
“I urge you to go back to the drawing board and come up with new ideas and new programs and not focus on what worked last week, what made sense given our prior assumptions, but throw some of those prior assumptions out the window,” Weiss said.
“We need to reevaluate our preparedness in a very, very different world,” committee chair Cindy Miscikowski said.
Police Chief Bernard Parks agreed that the city needs to work on being prepared for any disaster.
“We’ve seen now that people are willing to kill innocent people and destroy property, and we have to be prepared for that,” Parks told reporters.
In response to the attacks, the department went on full tactical alert, holding over entire watches after their shifts until the department could be sure it had enough officers on the clock and minor calls were not responded to.
The department has since scaled back to modified tactical alert, with watches still being held over from shift to shift, but the department is now handling its entire call load, Parks said.
Because so many officers have been diverted from the field to help increase uniformed police presence at Los Angeles International Airport, Police Chief Bernard Parks said the department will increase the amount of overtime worked by officers to make sure the force is not depleted.
“The airport is going to need some extra attention,” Parks said. “We need to determine a balance between an increase in overtime and putting more officers at LAX.”
In light of last week’s tragedies, the committee also voted 4-0 to commit to a 15-year plan to replace the Fire Department’s vehicles after hearing from representatives from the city’s fire department on the antiquated state of the vehicles.
The department has ladder trucks that are 26 years old, 25-year-old engine trucks, and ambulances which will be 11 years old in a few months, Battalion Chief Dennis Frazeur told the committee.
“I think the plan and a commitment to the plan surely makes sense,” Miscikowski said. “I think it has come more to the fore of importance.”
If adopted, the plan would replace up to 120 fire department vehicles a year for 15 years, with mileage and age being the determining factors of which vehicles will be replaced, Senior Legislative Analyst Ramon Soto said. The price tag would run between $14 and $14.5 million dollars a year.
The plan must also go before the council’s Budget and Finance Committee before it is sent to the full council.
A start date for the program or how the program will be funded has not yet been set, but Frazeur warned the committee of waiting too long to act, saying that it takes up 18 months from the date of ordering a vehicle to putting it into the department fleet.
“By putting it off you are not looking at a year, you’re looking at two and a half to three years,” Frazeur said. “We feel we need to get going on our replacement cycle.”
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company