Security Steps Taken at California Infrastructure : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

RESPONSE TO TERROR Security Steps Taken at State Infrastructure

Safety: Nuclear plants, aqueducts and other facilities get more guards, barricades and surveillance to prevent sabotage.

Times Headlines High Court Nominee Vows to Emphasize Consensus Security Steps Taken at State Infrastructure Mayor Urges Reopening of Parking Lots at LAX Secession Threat Gets New Respect Complaints of Dizziness Shut Down Subway more > By NICHOLAS RICCARDI TINA DAUNT and MITCHELL LANDSBERG, TIMES STAFF WRITERS

California officials are beefing up security at the state's dams, power plants, aqueducts, freeways and electrical transmission lines in an effort to prevent a terrorist attack.

Among the strategies are increased security patrols, barricades on major streets, aerial surveillance by California Highway Patrol planes and additional testing of water supplies to detect any attempts at poisoning. The state's military bases are also on high alert and have posted extra guards.

Strict measures are also being taken to prevent attacks at mass gatherings. The Dodgers are not allowing backpacks, coolers or other such gear in Dodger Stadium. Vehicles are being kept at least 100 feet from the stadium and additional security personnel have been hired.

Planes have been banned from flying within three miles of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena during games; searches of fans are being increased. A massive upgrade of security plans for the Jan. 1 collegiate football game is underway.

"We will be prepared," Pasadena Police Cmdr. Mary Schaunder said.

Though California's size might appear to make it relatively vulnerable to terrorism, officials insist that the state's vastness and complexity provide a modicum of safety.

Those who run the statewide electricity grid said they were confident that the system could absorb an act of sabotage--whether to power plants, transmission lines or computer system--and keep functioning.

"There are a lot of built-in redundancies in the system," said Stephanie McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the California Independent System Operator.

She noted that the California grid encompasses 124,000 miles of transmission lines, so that one segment hit by a terrorist attack could quickly be bypassed by other lines, ensuring that service was interrupted to relatively few customers.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Western Systems Coordinating Council, a Utah-based agency charged with managing interconnections within the Western grid, has been revising its contingency plans.

* California's two major water pipelines--the California Aqueduct, which brings water from north to south, and the Colorado Aqueduct, which brings it from the Colorado River to the Southland--have been patrolled by CHP aircraft since the attacks.

Other security measures have also been put in place.

"Nothing is foolproof," said Adan Ortega, an official with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a water wholesaler to six counties, "but given the magnitude and diversity of our system, it would take a very profound effort to disrupt Southern California."

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has doubled the number of guards stationed at area power and sewage plants.

New security measures have also been put in place to protect the city's drinking water reservoirs. "We are also doing periodic tests on a daily basis for bacterial [pollutants] and other chemicals that we know about," said Hal Lindsey, who heads the DWP's health and safety division.

However, he said the chances of anyone tainting the city's water supply are extremely slim. Lindsey said it would take "truckloads" of toxins to have any impact.

In 1991, when a railroad tanker car derailed and spilled thousands of gallons of toxic material into the Sacramento River above Lake Shasta, the poison killed fish, birds and mammals. But it was rendered harmless after it reached the lake, the state's biggest reservoir.

Most of California's biggest dams--including Hoover, Shasta and Folsom just east of Sacramento--have blocked access to roads leading, in some cases, across the crest of the dams. Public tours have been eliminated.

* Already tight security at the state's two nuclear power generating plants has been increased.

Since Sept. 11, CHP officers have been guarding the entrance of the Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo. Additional vehicle barriers have been erected, and the Coast Guard has forbidden watercraft from getting within a nautical mile of the seaside plant.

Anyone entering the Diablo Canyon facility normally passes through a bomb scanner, a metal detector and an X-ray machine. "Right there you've got a level of security that's not there in any other work area I'm aware of," said spokesman Jeff Lewis.

"We're just entering a whole new world," Lewis said.

Most of the same stepped-up security measures have also been imposed at the San Onofre plant south of San Clemente.

Los Angeles' sprawl and lack of identity, all fodder for urban critics, may be its salvation in the new era of terrorism, according to Jack Riley of Rand Corp., a Santa Monica think tank.

"It doesn't seem like Los Angeles and Southern California have the cultural and political icons that the type of terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center would want to hit," said Riley, the director of Rand's criminal justice unit. He studied Los Angeles as a potential terrorist target after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Los Angeles fire officials are gearing up to train scores of volunteers to provide backup service in case of a disaster. "Our No. 1 push is to get the community more involved," said Battalion Chief Robert Franco.

The program will include basic public safety training, ranging from first aid to traffic control. Some volunteers will even be taught how to operate Fire Department equipment.

Ralph Perry, director of disaster preparedness for San Diego County, said San Diego residents will need to learn how to react in an emergency. "They'll have to realize that when someone says, 'Please evacuate . . ,' they mean business," he said.

Although the Sept. 11 attacks jolted America into a new awareness of terrorism, some officials have long factored the threat into their daily planning.

For example, the California electricity grid operator is headquartered in an unmarked building in an anonymous-looking office park in a Sacramento suburb, its control room a windowless bunker designed with security in mind.

Word that Disneyland was being targeted for chemical attacks in 1996 led to the creation of a group composed of representatives of local government agencies to share information about terrorist threats.

Lucien Canton, director of the San Francisco Office of Emergency Services, said terrorism "is something we have always considered as a potential threat" because of the city's worldwide prominence and politically turbulent history.

The city has created a multi-agency team made up of officials from police, fire and public health departments, among others, who would be brought together as a task force in the event of such an attack, he said. That team mobilized the morning of Sept. 11.

Under the federal government's Domestic Preparedness Program Act, several California cities--including Los Angeles, San Diego, Anaheim and Burbank--have held drills simulating an attack of biological or chemical terrorism. San Diego's drill was held at Qualcomm Stadium, simulating an attack during a sporting event.

The program was begun in response to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.


Times staff writers Eric Bailey, Dan Morain, Tony Perry and Maria La Ganga contributed to this report.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 27, 2001

Moderation questions? read the FAQ