Sunday, November 06, 2005

Study Shows that Agencies Are Not Putting Enough Money Into Emergency Response

SACRAMENTO — California's mass transit agencies are throwing too much of their scarce federal funding at preventing a hard-to-stop terrorist attack and too little preparing for an attack's aftermath, according to security experts who studied the spending patterns for The Associated Press.
The priorities ignore the lessons of the bus and train bombings that killed 247 people in Madrid and London: It's impossible to fully secure big-city systems designed for easy access to hundreds of thousands of riders.
For its review of transit spending, the AP asked top counterterror analysts in the United States and the United Kingdom to examine details of $15.5 million in federal funding six major California transit agencies have been given over the last two years. Their advice: Assume an attack will one day succeed and fine-tune the emergency reaction to respond to the carnage, confusion and disruption. In most cases, that's the opposite ofwhat's being done.
"I was surprised there was so little emphasis on the response and recovery plan," said Magnus Ranstorp, a counterterrorism researcher at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. "It's sort of a smorgasbord approach. I'm not sure some of the money is well spent or well thought-out to be efficient."
Transit agencies defended their approaches, saying the prevention of an attack must be the top priority.
That's partly because transit agency officials believe it's their job to run the trains, buses and ferries safely — and the responsibility of firefighters and police to respond should terrorists strike, said Bill Pedrini, chief of protective services for Caltrain, a commuter rail service that runs between San Francisco and San Jose.
Bay Area Rapid Transit was one of five San Francisco Bay area transit agencies that formally made prevention their No. 1 policy goal when they set priorities for dividing $7.5 million in federal counterterror grants this fall. Detection was second, recovery third and emergency response last.
"Prevention is where we want to be — stop it before it happens," BART spokesman Linton Johnson said.
The experts contacted by AP said some of the agencies' purchases are cost-effective, citing bomb-sniffing dogs, improved communications equipment and tighter security at maintenance and parking areas.
Those were among dozens of spending items in the records of the six agencies: the Bay Area Rapid Transit District; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Los Angeles; Caltrain; the Southern California Regional Rail Authority; the North San Diego County Transit District; and the San Joaquin Rail Commission.
The agencies also bought plasma televisions, personal protective equipment, padlocks and surveillance cameras, radios and alarms, handheld bomb detectors and motion detectors, fences and fiber-optic equipment.
Such spending "reinforces the point that transit agencies are at square one with respect to responding to terrorist threats," said James Moore, a public transit expert at the University of Southern California's Homeland Security Center. (More)