Nevada’s main cities seen as potential terrorist targets
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A member of the Nevada Homeland Security Committee says Las Vegas and Reno are potential targets for any type of terrorist attack because of the cities’ 24-hour lifestyle.
“It makes them more vulnerable,” said Richard Brenner of the Clark County Fire Department. “We are both 24-hour cities. We really don’t go to sleep. It’s not a 9-to-5 environment like the rest of the United States. So you have to plan for something like that.”
Las Vegas is developing a medical response plan for terrorist acts, assisted by $600,000 from the federal Department of Health and Human Services because it’s one of the nation’s top 120 areas of population.
Reno should have been in on the funding since it shares many of the unique security problems of a tourist-based community like Las Vegas, Brenner said at a security committee meeting Wednesday.
“My problem was that it was only based on population,” Brenner said. “But what about Reno? Reno is just like Las Vegas, just a little smaller.”
Washoe County already has a weapons of mass destruction reaction plan, said committee member Stephanie Beck, Washoe County’s emergency medical services coordinator.
But Beck said she’d welcome the federal funds to expand Washoe’s plan. She also said she understood why Las Vegas — and not Reno — was included in the first tier of U.S. cities given federal funds.
“There is a relative risk (for Reno),” she said. “But when you talk about relative risk, I think that Las Vegas would obviously be a higher target than Reno.”
Brenner also was disappointed that the health and human services agency didn’t have a national plan for U.S. cities to follow.
“Everyone is doing this totally different and that is where we get into some problems,” Brenner said. “There is no standard. Every community has done it their own way.”
Dr. Henry Siegelson, a disaster planning expert from Atlanta, told the committee that it may not be able to depend on out-of-state or federal government assistance when disaster strikes.
“I have no confidence in the national disaster medical assistance, none whatsoever,” he said. “You will never transfer (injured) people out of this state. It won’t happen. The hospitals that you would use are full. It’s a broken-down system. Do not depend upon it. Depend upon yourselves.”
The Homeland Security Committee was formed in 1999 by Gov. Kenny Guinn to develop a plan to prepare for terrorist attacks. Originally, it was named the Weapons of Mass Destruction Steering Committee.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, it has taken a higher profile, said Frank Siracusa, chief of the state Division of Emergency Management, which oversees the homeland committee.
“When we started, we were small.” Siracusa said. “We were low-key and I don’t think that we anticipated that we would be in the limelight as we are today.”
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