S.F. Bay Area Cities Get Terrorist-Ready (Just-In-Time For Y2K??)greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
S.F. Bay Area Cities Get Terrorist-Ready (Just-In-Time For Y2K??)
Front page today.
Interesting timing, in light of all weve been figuring out. Mentions a reference to the 120 cities, too. Question. Is Silicon Valley sitting at ground zero???
This is NOT a good morning.
Diane *Big Sigh*
Bay Area Cities Get Terrorist-Ready
SF, San Jose among 27 municipalities in U.S. given funds to build civil defense network
Sabin Russell, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, February 26, 1999
)1999 San Francisco Chronicle
At secret locations throughout San Francisco and San Jose, city workers are stockpiling cardboard boxes that no sane person ever wants opened. Inside are the gear and medicine needed if terrorists strike using poison gas, lethal germs or crude atomic weapons.
With an infusion of federal money, the two cities are among 27 nationwide that are quietly building a civil defense network for the post-Cold War era --a time when lunatics and fanatical bands are to be feared more than nuclear annihilation.
``This is a threat that continues to rise. It's kind of like the earthquake. Someday, it will happen,'' said Dr. John Brown, director of emergency medical services for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. ``It may not happen here, but I'm afraid that at some point, somewhere, it will.''
In response to the threat, planners are calling on the expertise cities already have in dealing with accidents involving industrial chemicals or hazardous waste.
``Sarin (nerve gas) is a human pesticide. We'd respond the same way if a tanker truck with pesticide turned over,'' said Frances Winslow, San Jose director of emergency preparedness. ``The only difference is, it won't be a couple of dozen victims. It is potentially thousands.''
The chilling nature of the undertaking can be found in the inventory of equipment recently purchased in San Francisco. In addition to hundreds of decontamination suits, rubber boots, vaccines and antidotes to nerve gas, the city has purchased 1,000 body bags.
The Clinton administration has allocated $158 million this year to equip the first batch of cities. The eventual goal is to expand the preparedness program to 120 cities across the country. San Mateo County has received a Justice Department grant to collect emergency response equipment, and Oakland is expected to receive Department of Defense equipment in the next round of federal grants.
San Francisco and San Jose have already created Metropolitan Medical Task Forces, the cumbersome name for the police, fire and ambulance strike teams trained to respond to a poison gas or germ warfare``incident.''
Purchases would not be possible without a substantial amount of federal aid. ``This stuff is expensive, and nobody wants to pay for it,'' said Brown.
San Jose has received $900,000 in federal aid to equip teams that could respond to a terrorist attack. It was the first city in the nation to complete a Department of Defense five- day ``train the trainers program,'' which gives city personnel expertise they can pass on to others. Both San Francisco and San Jose have conducted drills with smoke bombs and volunteer ``victims,'' who writhe on the pavement as they would in a cloud of nerve gas.
CITIES MUST PAY FOR TRAINING
Although federal agencies are providing generous amounts of equipment to participating cities, the municipalities are on their own to come up with training time and training dollars. ``It runs into millions of dollars,'' said Winslow.
The cost of training is also a concern in Oakland. ``We have a limited amount of training dollars,'' said Don Parker, assistant chief in charge of training at the Oakland Fire Department. ``The question is what other very important programs we put on the back shelf while we implement this one.''
Although the threat of a poison gas or germ weapon attack is hypothetical, there is ample reason for concern. American jets are fighting a low-intensity air war with Iraq, a nation that has built chemical and biological weapons, and has used nerve gas against its own civilians. Four years ago in a Tokyo subway attack, members of the Japanese cult Aum Shinri Kyo killed 11 people using bathtub-brewed potions of nerve gas. Investigators later learned the group had also tried to release lethal microbes. The attempt failed only because their primitive bioweapons were duds.
MEDICAL PERSONNEL ON FRONT LINES
``We must not be afraid, but we must be aware,'' said Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala last week at a Washington, D.C., conference on bioterrorism.
The Clinton cabinet secretary focused on the role civilian hospitals and medical personnel will play in such a terrorist incident. ``With bioterrorism, it's the public health and medical communities who stand directly in the front lines,'' she said.
San Francisco has collected $785,000 so far to buy three truckloads of anti-terrorist gear. It has been distributed at locales kept secret for security reasons.
There are kits designed to detect the presence of anthrax -- a microscopic spore that can kill or disable victims within days, and electronic sniffers built for the battlefield that can detect the presence of colorless, odorless nerve gas.
Among the more costly items are so-called Level A suits, made of a lightweight plastic, that allow firefighters to enter a zone contaminated with nerve gas. Like spacesuits, the gear completely seals wearers from the outer environment. An air supply comes from a scuba tank, modified for use on land.
FIELD TENT FOR SCRUBBING VICTIMS
The goal of these strike teams is to decontaminate victims exposed to poison gas -- this means literally washing them off and scrubbing them down. As deadly as nerve gas may be, it is possible to save lives by washing it off the skin. So among the new equipment are portable showers, including a $28,000 field tent that can run three lines of victims at once through a cleansing process. Supplies include one-piece white body suits, for warmth and modesty, that would be distributed to victims after decontamination.
The city teams are also equipped with Geiger counters to help emergency crews cope with a new kind of terrorist threat seen in Russia's breakaway republic of Chechnya: bombs designed to spray radioactive debris. They can also be used in the most horrific, but least likely, scenario: the explosion of a crude nuclear weapon. Heat and blast damage aside, the most terrible quality of a primitive nuclear weapon is that it is more likely to spread radioactive debris than a military-grade device.
Geiger counters and plastic suits are indeed a thin line of defense against the kind of terror weapons defense planners fear. Yet there is a growing consensus that the damage can be reduced and lives can be saved in cities that are trained to respond to the unthinkable.
San Jose emergency preparedness chief Winslow believes that a community that is trained to deal with such events is less likely to experience one. ``If you were a terrorist, you probably wouldn't want to attack a prepared community,'' she said. ``By being prepared, we make ourselves a less attractive target.''
-- Diane J. Squire (email@example.com), February 26, 1999
Interesting little military web-site.
Domestic Preparedness -- Enhancing the Capabilities of Federal, State and Local Emergency Responders ...
The ultimate goal of the Domestic Preparedness Team is to train and assess 120 cities. These cities include:
-- Diane J. Squire (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 26, 1999.
Okay Diane, you're making it damn near impossible for those who want to reside in "Happy Land" to ignore the warnings, and you're making it difficult for the rest of us to get a decent night's sleep.
Don't you just wish we could lose ourselves in a giant mug of Caffe Mocha Latte - - just for a moment?
I wish I could, but I got beans to plant.
Keep up the good work.
It's better to be informed and ready than ignorant and desperate.
-- INVAR (email@example.com), February 26, 1999.
Thanks Diane for the info, my sister who works in Burlingame told me about it this morning but didn't have all the specifics. I'm sure some Hollywood producer will have a movie out soon on Y2K...they don't even have to write much of a script either.
-- bardou (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 26, 1999.
INVAR & bardou,
Im gonna go git me a caffe latte hangover.
Gawd, is this all really happening?
My little'ole mother is an addicted KGO talk show junkie. In listening this a.m. apparently someone called the Mayor of San Jose to ask about this and he "said" he didn't know anything about it.
Diane, sleepless in Silicon
-- Diane J. Squire (email@example.com), February 26, 1999.