2008-09-11 / Front Page

Emergency preparedness has come a long way, officials say

But there's always room to improve
By Nancy Needham nancy@theacorn.com

LOOKING BACK AT 9/11 AND TO THE FUTURE--Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks speaks at a meeting at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. He was among other officials in public safety who discussed emergency preparedness. After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, government agencies at the national, state, county and city levels began to re-examine how to respond effectively to catastrophies, both those caused by human beings and those that are the result of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.
A panel of safety experts gathered on Tuesday, with the anniversary of Sept. 11 looming, to speak to CLU corporate leaders at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks, Director of the Center for Asymmetric Warfare David Banks, National Transportation Safety board member Steve Chealander and Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten were on the panel. R. Duke Blackwood, director of the Reagan Library, was the moderator.

About 220 business leaders listened to the panelists speak on how businesses can prepare for a natural catastrophe or a terrorist attack.

"We take security and preparedness very seriously at the library," Blackwood said.

Remaining vigilant and taking personal responsibility for preparedness were common themes.

He reminded the crowd that Reagan once said, "We are only one generation from losing our freedom."

Chealander, formerly a pilot and safety chief, is now one of five NTS board members who are responsible for safety for the traveling public.

Beginning on Sept. 12, 2001, immediately after the terrorist attacks that killed about 3,000 people, airlines began doing what they should have done before, he said.

Cockpit doors were reinforced to make them bulletproof. The doors were secured with coded entry pads. Pilots were armed with handguns. More air marshals were added to flights.

Passengers have had their patience tested, with restrictions on what they can carry on planes and long lines at metal detectors.

"We're getting better and better equipment and becoming more efficient," he said.

Most importantly, the country has changed the way its citizens act, and Chealander said he hopes Americans will never forget how important it is to be on guard.

"We have a very short attention span," Banks said.

Banks works at Point Mugu within the Naval Postgraduate School that provides research to increase combat effectiveness for the U.S. military.

He compared the war on terrorism to a football game where one team plays by the rules, but the other team follows no rules and uses guns, pipes and knives.

Banks listed terrorists as coming in four varieties—international, domestic, those who are nuts and Mother Nature. He said it takes four agencies under one commander to go to war. To deal with the war on terror locally, 42 agencies with different leaders must come together and are expected to get by with less money while being asked to do more.

Banks told business leaders to consider what they would do if a catastrophe happened and the ambulances didn't come. He suggested they prepare for that scenario.

Brooks noted he'd been to Israel, where he visited a successful mall that spent 26 percent of their gross budget on security— bomb dogs, automatic weapons and metal detectors.

Then he asked, "How prepared are we?" A 72-hour kit isn't enough, he said.

For more information, go to www.ready.gov, Brooks said.

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