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On the heels of the 13th remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition on Wednesday hosted its annual safety summit to discuss emergency preparedness and homeland security.
City officials and first responders attended the event, which was moderated by USC adjunct professor Dr. Erroll Southers.
Panelists were Colonel Jeff Smiley, of the California National Guard; Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas; commander Blake Chow, of the LAPD’s Counter-Terrorism & Special Operations Bureau; and David Bowdich, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division.
“It seems odd to me — thirteen years after 9/11 — that perhaps the threat to our country is bigger than before Sept. 11,” said Visit West Hollywood president and CEO Brad Burlingame, whose brother was piloting Flight 77, which flew into the Pentagon during the attacks. “The big difference is we are far more prepared now than we were thirteen years ago, thanks to men in uniform, first responders, police, fire, law enforcement, anti-terrorism.”
He said residents have a duty to remind their neighbors and friends to be vigilant.
“I’m sorry to say I feel another attack will come,” Burlingame said.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, said the “unfortunate reality” of the post-9/11 U.S. is that the country has reshaped its understanding of terrorism.
“Our cities have been targets, and innocent men, women and children have fallen victim to these horrific crimes against humanity,” he said.
O’Farrell referenced a motion that he authored, directing the LAPD to report back to the council on countering violent extremism in Los Angeles. He said it is based on a strategy developed by the White House.
“And the city of L.A. has been at the forefront of these efforts. …If we don’t feel safe in the neighborhoods we live and work in, we really have no quality of life,” O’Farrell said.
The event was held in the James Cagney Board Room at SAG-AFTRA. Councilman Tom LaBonge. 4th District, said the city must be tough like Cagney.
“It’s going to happen again,” he said. “We don’t know how, we don’t know where. Preparedness is so important.”
Kevin James, president of the city’s Board of Public Works, is also a member of the city’s Emergency Operations Board. He said the board receives regular seismic updates from Dr. Lucy Jones, of the U.S. Geological Survey. Recently, she stressed the need to maintain cell service after an emergency and showed the board that people were more willing to leave their communities for cell service than power, James said.
“So that gives you a sense of the dependency we have on cell service,” he said, advising emergency personnel to keep that in mind
LAFD Battalion Chief James Ruiz discussed the department’s Disaster Awareness Course (DAC), a free preparedness program that analyzes how people can prepare for a disaster.
For information about the DAC courses, call (213)978-3579.
Before introducing the panelists, Southers, director of the Department of Homeland Security National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, referenced a 2005 bomb plot to attack military facilities in Los Angeles.
“My biggest fear is not returning foreign fighters, but the people who never left and are here now,” he said.
Terrazas said he was on duty the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and there was speculation that a missing plane was headed to the West Coast. He contemplated what would happen if an attack did occur.
“It’s a scary thought. I think we’re much better prepared now than we were then,” Terrazas said.
He listed several terrorist attacks that have occurred in L.A. over the last 40 to 50 years. Terrazas spoke at length about the Transportation Security Administration shooting last November.
“LAX is the number one target on the West Coast, especially here in Los Angeles,” he said.
Terrazas said the department’s job is to bring organization to chaos. He said the LAFD is working diligently to reduce response times, though he is proud of the department’s ability to get anywhere in L.A. in approximately five minutes — on average.
“We’re really focusing hard on reducing seconds to get on scene,” Terrazas added.
He said the LAFD is looking into dispatching resources using GPS locations, and their system should be operational early next year. The fire chief said the department will also be utilizing FireStat, an organizational management tool, by November.
Furthermore, LAFD officials are using bike medics in crowded areas, such as the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Lastly, the department is overhauling its medical dispatch system, Terrazas said.
He also promoted Pulse Point, a smartphone application that notifies individuals who are proficient at CPR that a person is in need of the life-saving technique in their general vicinity. Terrazas said the app will be ready in approximately one month.
“It’s actually a proven model, and it’s spreading throughout the state,” he added.
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