The Los Angeles/ Long Beach port
complex is the nation's busiest seaport. If terrorists were to attack the port
complex, then the economic damage would be catastrophic. In the short term, it
is impossible to prevent an attack at the port complex. Consequently, effective
first response planning is of paramount importance. The United States Coast
Guard has formed a multi-agency Port Security Committee to organize local and
state officials to develop emergency response plans for attacks on the port
complex. Their endeavor is complicated by the fact that many local agencies
from the City of Los Angeles, the City of Long Beach and Los Angeles County
share jurisdiction over the port complex.
This report recommends measures for
these local governments and agencies to improve their terrorism response plans
at the port complex. By conducting over six-dozen interviews with elected
officials, agency leaders, private stakeholders, and first responders, our
research team identified three broad policy problems that may hinder efficient
and effective emergency response at the port complex:
Oversight and Coordination: Local political decision makers do not sufficiently
oversee emergency response planning and key stakeholders are absent from
the planning process.
Inaccessibility of the Port Complex: Poor vehicle access may prevent first responders from
reaching the facility and assisting victims.
Incompatible Communication Systems: Differences in radio technologies prevent agencies from
communicating during a response and from coordinating emergency response
This report recommends that
policymakers take the following measures to resolve these policy problems:
Problem 1: Oversight and Coordination
Political Oversight: Specific local elected leaders
should create an informal, multi-jurisdictional political oversight
"Group of Five" for port security. This group should include one
representative from each local political entity that has jurisdiction over
the port complex: Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn, Los Angeles City
Councilmember Janice Hahn, Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill, Long Beach
City Councilmember Dan Baker, and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor
Don Knabe. This "Group of Five" would meet on a regular schedule
with the Captain of the Port, who would brief them, answer their
questions, listen to their collective input, and communicate their
feedback to the PSC and its planning group.
Public Health Representation: The Los Angeles County
Department of Health Services should assign a senior public health
official to the Port Security Committee to assist in the response planning
Private Sector Representation: The Port Security
Committee should meet periodically with private sector stakeholders, such
as industry and labor representatives, and draw upon their knowledge and
resources when developing response plans for the port complex.
Problem 2: Inaccessibility of the
CERT Training: The Los Angeles County CERT Advisory
Committee should provide CERT training to prepare workers at the port
complex to respond to an attack. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
training is a voluntary program that provides emergency preparedness
training and allows civilians to supplement professional first responders'
CERT Prioritization: Identify high-risk populations and
target them for enrollment, giving them priority for CERT training. Port
workers should receive CERT training because the port complex is a
potential target for terrorism, but there is currently a backlog for
training and no method of prioritization.
Interagency Joint Training Team: Create an interagency
CERT Joint Training Team for the port complex. To overcome resource
constraints, the Los Angeles and Long Beach Fire Departments, Los Angeles
County Fire Department, and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department should each
dedicate one full-time CERT trainer from their existing staffs to train
workers at the port complex. In addition, the American Red Cross should teach
CERT modules that do not require instruction by professional first
CERT Funding: Pursue both federal grants and private
sector donations as funding alternatives.
CERT Materiel: Provide each CERT-trained port worker
with a small equipment kit. Many first response officials and port workers
agreed that instead of using stockpiled caches of equipment, CERT-trained
port workers should be allocated individual kits of first aid and safety
equipment to keep with them at their job sites.
Problem 3: Incompatible
Interoperable Communications: The Los Angeles Port
Police should purchase two ACU-1000 Intelligent Interconnect Systems and
hardwire them into an existing communications facility at the port
complex. The ACU-1000 provides site-specific interoperability between
otherwise incompatible communications devices. This technology would offer
great potential for improvements in coordination between agencies during
an emergency response effort at the port complex.
Communications Protocols: The Port Security Committee
should establish a unified communications protocol and test it during
training exercises. Failure to establish protocols and conduct training
for using interoperable devices may result in excessive voice traffic and
confusion during an emergency response.
Preparedness for a terrorist attack at the port complex requires cooperative
action by both public and private stakeholders throughout Los Angeles County.
These recommendations will further engender the teamwork that is imperative for
effective planning and implementation of terrorism preparedness plans.