Inspired by a 4-day training exercise in which a mock earthquake threatened to collapse a reservoir, which then flooded the city, while a fire supposedly raged in Coldwater Canyon and Nancy Reagan purportedly had to be evacuated from a collapsed wing of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills officials have decided to step up their emergency planning.
Part of the program includes a recruiting drive for the city's Neighborhood Watch program, with the eventual aim of having block captains for all 376 blocks in the city. City officials hope Neighborhood Watch groups will be able to help deal with emergencies as well their more traditional role of watching out for crime.
Seventy-four blocks are now organized in the Neighborhood Watch program, most of them in areas of single-family homes. The new drive will concentrate on apartment areas, where 60% of the city's population lives and where 65% of burglaries are committed.
"We are trying to be a catalytic agent to get the public to protect themselves," Police Chief Marvin Iannone said. He said the urgency of the problem was brought home by last summer's mock disaster exercise held at a Federal Emergency Management Agency facility in Emmitsburg, Md.