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Terrorism Readiness in the State of California

Posted Oct-18-2001

The purpose of this bulletin is to provide information to the Humboldt State University campus community from the Governor's Office of Emergency Services regarding terrorism readiness in the State of California.

The United States Government has stated that in light of recent military actions in Afghanistan, there is an increased likelihood that retaliatory terrorist strikes could occur in the United States. Experts believe that if such an attack does occur, it would most probably be through the use of a conventional rather than a biological or chemical weapon. If another terrorist incident does occur, there is no better-prepared place to be than in the State of  California. For more than 25 years, state and local government agencies have been preparing for terrorist acts to ensure the safety and security of the general public.

What can you do?

  • Remain calm. Stay informed. Identify credible and reliable sources of information such as local law enforcement agencies or county Office of Emergency Services. Avoid extremes such as canceling trips or withdrawing.
  • All Californians should already have emergency preparedness kits, such as for earthquakes. Keep emergency preparedness kits up to date and stocked for at least 72 hours of self-sufficiency.
  • Keep emergency phone lists updated.
  • Choose an out-of-state friend or relative who you and your family members can call after an emergency to report your whereabouts and conditions.
  • Avoid spreading unsubstantiated stories.

What has the State done?

  • The State has been actively aware of, and planned for, terrorism incidents for more than 25 years.
  • The Governor's Office of Emergency Services coordinates state-level terrorism preparedness, response and recovery. Many State agencies are involved in these actions.
  • California's Terrorism Response Plan was activated immediately after notification of the East Coast Terrorist Attack on September 11, and remains in force. This high level of readiness ensures that if there should be an incident, the response will be as swift as is possible.
  • For the past five years terrorism has been OES' top priority in terms of hazard-specific planning.
    • The OES chairs the State Terrorism Threat Advisory Committee. This group consists of representatives from the FBI, Secret Service, FEMA, ATF, the California Highway Patrol, the State Department of Justice, Department of Health Services, and the Emergency Medical Services Authority. The S-TAC develops recommendations and advice for top-level decision makers.
    • OES has provided local governments with terrorism planning guidance for many years, and published a stand-alone guide for local governments in 1998.
    • The California Department of Health Services (CDHS) has been for five years and will continue to be, actively engaged in bioterrorism preparedness activities with local, state and federal agencies.
    • CDHS staff work with local health departments and the FBI to monitor for cases of disease outbreaks or reports of unusual illnesses.
    • Local health departments have been placed on a heightened level of alert for reports of unusual diseases.
    • All water systems have been directed to review their emergency plans and to increase surveillance of their facilities.
    • Security at all water conveyance systems has been increased.
    • California's State Water Project (SWP) is continuing routine water deliveries and operations at a heightened level of security.
    • SWP has taken appropriate measures to safeguard the water project infrastructure, and to protect key Department of Water Resources (DWR) facilities and the water supply.

What if an attack occurs?

If an attack were to occur in California, there are significant numbers of emergency management resources statewide that would be brought to bear to respond.

  • California'snearly 80,000 sworn peace officers, more than 60,000 firefighters, and thousands of emergency management personnel, combined with the State's multi-disciplinary approach to emergency response, give California a robust and formidable capability to deal with any disaster or emergency. Federal resources multiply this capability.
  • California has more than 1,500 FBI agents available to investigate threats, physical evidence and to control federal assets.
  • Local Emergency Medical Services agencies work with Regional Disaster Medical Health Coordinators to ensure that appropriate resources are available during an incident. If all of the regions' resources are being utilized, OES and the Emergency Medical Services Authority would deploy Disaster Medical Assistance Teams to assist the impacted areas.

Although a biological or chemical attack is not seen as a likely threat, if such an attack were to occur, the following assets are available:

  • The Department of Health Services laboratories are part of a network of laboratories that can test for biological agents. The network consists of multiple state and local labs.
  • Labs in both southern and northern California are "level C" labs, capable of testing for anthrax, botulism, plague, tularemia, brucellosis, smallpox and mycotoxins. There is only one higher-level laboratory, Level D. The CDC and the Army have level D labs that can be used if necessary.
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS) trained personnel are the first responders to any emergency. EMS personnel are trained to work in emergency situations, and their training provides for initial treatment of hazardous material and biohazard exposure. Local EMS agencies can provide additional training to personnel in their areas at their discretion.
  • Public health personnel would be contacted immediately in the event of any biological hazard.
  • Responding personnel would have necessary medicines for short-term treatments. Medicines for longer-term treatments or mass dosages of medicines would be made available from the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile.
  • The Centers for Disease Control could dispatch its stockpile of medicines to shield against biological weapons and treat people already exposed.

Again, biological and chemical attacks are not considered to be a likely threat.

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