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L.A. City Council OKs $1 Million for Hazmat Gear

Security: Funds will pay for biohazard suits and other equipment, as well as bomb-detecting dogs, to better prepare for a terrorist attack.

November 07, 2001|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

To boost the city's readiness to combat terrorism, the Los Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday to spend $1 million to purchase biohazard suits and masks and acquire four bomb-detecting dogs.

The council also asked the city's top administrator to prepare a report on ways to fund the additional personnel--four police officers and three detectives--needed to form two more LAPD hazardous-materials and bomb-detection teams, and hire handlers for the dogs. Staffers are also studying the creation of a Fire Department hazmat team for the harbor area.

In addition, city officials were directed to talk with county health workers to determine whether city parks should be designated as sites for the mass distribution of medicine if bioterrorism hits Los Angeles.

These measures had been recommended by the Threat Preparedness Task Force, which was created after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon to deal with possible threats to the city.

"The reality is that Los Angeles police and fire officers are on the front lines in our nation's war against terrorism--and I want to give them the tools they need to do their jobs," said Councilman Jack Weiss, who wrote the legislation creating the task force.

Since anthrax contamination cases were first reported on the East Coast last month, the Los Angeles Police Department's six-person hazardous-materials investigation team has been swamped with 270 calls, all of which were false alarms, Police Cmdr. Mark Leap told the council.

The council approved $351,000 for 516 biohazard suits and other equipment for use by existing and future hazmat teams.

Because police patrol officers and firefighters are usually the first to respond to calls, the council also authorized the purchase of 3,000 masks that provide temporary protection against biological and chemical hazards.

Leap said the masks are "critically needed" for those first on the scene.

"If they find themselves at a bioterrorist incident, they will be able to get out of the hot zone without infecting themselves or debilitating themselves," Leap said.

Meanwhile, Weiss introduced a motion Tuesday asking for $2.3 million to expand the Fire Department's urban search-and-rescue unit by 12 people and hire 10 more security officers for city communications facilities.

He also sought another $140,000 to buy four vehicles needed by the LAPD's hazardous materials/environmental crimes unit.

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