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Local Government Ready to Respond

November 1, 2001

Lincoln-Lancaster County Emergency Management is prepared to activate the Emergency Operations Center to provide information to all agencies involved in disaster response, such as the Police, Fire and Health Departments and the Airport Authority. The community received about $280,000 from the federal government in 2000 for training on response to biological, chemical and nuclear warfare. The funding was also used to purchase biological monitoring equipment. Contact: Emergency Management Coordinator Doug Ahlberg, 441-7441

The Lincoln Police Department is prepared to send extra officers to the airport, the Federal Building, the State Capitol, the State Office Building and the County-City Building. Officers would be instructed to be highly visible at or near schools at dismissal time if not otherwise engaged. The department continues to encourage the reporting of any hate crimes.

Since September 11, Police Chief Tom Casady said his department has applied for funding for an increased number of gas masks for its tactical units. A detective has been assigned to coordinate all intelligence information related to terrorism. Casady has participated in the weekly Nebraska-Iowa anti-terrorism task force meetings at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Omaha. The Police Department has also obtained and trained on Chem-Bio protective equipment. Contact: Police Chief Tom Casady, 441-8700

The Lincoln Fire Department is ready to respond in case any local incidents would occur. The Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, Nebraska Task Force One, recently assisted with recovery operations in New York, and it would prepare for FEMA notification of its deployment. The Lincoln team has been named one of six Weapons of Mass Destruction Task Forces in the country and will receive about $500,000 for additional training and equipment.

The Fire Department began training all personnel on weapons of mass destruction in 1999, with an intensive program for the command staff and hazardous materials responders. Five members of the department are now in Virginia Beach, Virginia for additional training. Contact: Fire Chief Mike Spadt, 441-7333

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) continues to communicate and work closely with local hospital emergency departments, infection control practitioners, emergency medical responders and health care providers. This communication would increase the likelihood that a case of bioterrorism would be recognized quickly and that the biological agent involved would be identified quickly. The Nebraska Health and Human Services System is receiving $120,000 a year for the next five years from the Centers for Disease Control to establish a Health Alert Network, which would provide communication links among health care providers and public health agencies.

LLCHD has so far sent 35 samples of suspicious materials for lab testing, and all have been negative for dangerous substances. LLCHD has also worked with other agencies to advise the public on handling anthrax and other biological agent threats.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded the community a $400,000 grant to develop a Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) to enhance the community’s ability to respond to an emergency incident involving biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. The Health Department has hired a coordinator for the process, which is expected to take 18 months to two years. Contact: Health Director Bruce Dart, 441-8001; MMRS Coordinator, 441-8056.

The Lincoln Public Works and Utilities Department has increased security at Lincoln Water System (LWS) facilities and is strictly controlling access. Officials are reviewing their security procedures with local law enforcement and emergency management personnel and with professional public works associations. Contact: Director Allan Abbott, 441-7566; LWS Chief Engineer Jerry Obrist, 441-5930

Operations at the Lincoln Airport continue to follow all mandates from the Federal Aviation Administration regarding flights and security. The National Guard continues to assist with security at this time. Contact: Airport Authority Executive Director John Wood - 458-2400

The Citizen Information Center, a division of the Mayor’s Office, acts as the public communications center, keeping citizens informed through the media and the city’s web site: Contact: Manager Diane Gonzolas, 441-7831

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