Many cities not prepared for terrorism

Posted: Sunday, September 23, 2001

WASHINGTON -- A spot check of America's cities provides evidence of a widespread lack of local plans to prevent or deal with terrorist attacks, especially in smaller- and medium-sized towns.

The National League of Cities faxed short questionnaires about local plans for dealing with terrorism to 1,800 cities and towns after four hijacked airliners crashed on Sept. 11. About one-third of the 456 communities that responded in the following week said they have no plans in place for averting or reacting to terrorist attacks. About one in eight are still developing plans. Just over half said their terrorism response blueprints are in place.

Larger cities appear to be more prepared, with more than eight in 10 towns of over 100,000 people saying they have outlined how they would handle a terrorist threat. Only six in 10 medium-sized cities and 4 in 10 small towns said had such plans.

A little more than half of the local governments responding to the survey expressed a need to reassess their readiness in light of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Specific measures being considered include: updating emergency and communications equipment, improving coordination with local military bases and permanently closing some streets near government buildings. Some cities said they also were monitoring their water supplies more closely and considering training in responses to biological and chemical warfare.

The survey found that cities reacted in a variety of ways on the day of the attacks in New York and Washington. About a quarter of those responding declared emergencies or issued alerts; one in 12 evacuated at least one building; one in 17 closed schools, and one in 50 closed some streets.

Large cities were much more likely to take all of those actions, the survey found.

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