- The Washington Times - Monday, November 19, 2001

BALTIMORE A poster on the wall of the underground bunker reads: "Are you ready for the next disaster? Civil Defense for you, your family and America."
What's old is becoming new again as Baltimore rapidly modernizes a relic of the Cold War days a fallout shelter five miles north of downtown that will serve as the city government's emergency operations center.
The September 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon have caused cities like Baltimore to revisit some ideas that had been shelved since the fall of the Soviet Union.
After the atomic bomb scare faded, some fallout shelters fell into disuse as funding for civil defense shifted toward handling natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes.
Baltimore's operations center could be used if there were floods or massive fires near City Hall. However, it's being brought up to speed now due to recent terrorist attacks, and the threat of biological, chemical and possibly nuclear attacks, said Richard McKoy, the city's director of emergency management.
"During a potential attack, we need a center of command with redundant modes of communication and a secure flow of information," Mayor Martin O'Malley said. "The bunker is a perfect fit."
Who would be inside?
The mayor, of course, and his top Cabinet officials, including the police chief, the fire chief and the head of the Department of Public Works. Other key support agencies also have places, including representatives of the telephone company, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., the Red Cross and the National Guard.
"You don't have to look for a resource," Mr. McKoy said. "They're all here right at the table."
Milton Copulos, president of the National Defense Council Foundation, an Alexandria-based think tank, said making a fallout shelter into an emergency control center makes good sense.
"There are a bunch of bunkers that are just there, many of which can be resurrected," Mr. Copulos said. "I know an awful lot of [cities] are looking at what they have in place and looking at what the next level of preparedness needs to be."
Built under federal guidance during the Cold War, the fallout shelters became the responsibility of state and local officials when the Federal Emergency Management Agency was formed in 1979 with an eye toward natural disasters.
A FEMA spokesman said the agency does not know how many cities are converting old fallout shelters, but many may be reviewing their plans after considering the experience of New York, which had its emergency control center in the World Trade Center, which was destroyed September 11.
Many other emergency control centers are already subterranean.
Los Angeles' Emergency Operations Center is located four floors underground. New York's State Emergency Management Office operates from a bunker below state police headquarters in Albany.
If there were a disaster in Iowa, state agencies would operate out of the STARC (State Area Command) Armory at Camp Dodge in Johnston, an underground bunker with a high-tech communications system and reinforced concrete walls a foot thick.
Renovating the nuclear bombproof shelter will cost Baltimore about $400,000, part of $17.6 million in security enhancements ordered since September 11 that are stretching out an already strained city budget.
The underground bunker, located beneath a fire station, was built in 1952 as a Civil Defense Control Center. The 22-inch thick concrete walls were intended to withstand the blast from a nuclear explosion.
With food reserves and an air recirculating system, those inside could survive for two weeks while the most dangerous radioactive fallout dissipated outside.
William C. Codd II, the city's emergency management director for 13 years ending in 1993, said the only time he recalls the center being used was during the 1968 riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King.
Sifting through the dated supplies, Mr. McKoy has encountered some interesting artifacts. The gray, 50-year-old cans of emergency water must go. The same goes for the 45 rpm records teaching medical self help.
Fourteen new fiber optic telephone lines and three computers have been added. Antennae were erected on the roof so pagers and cell phones will work underground.
Mr. McKoy points to some Geiger counters and dosimeters portable radiation detecting devices left over from Cold War days.
"[Osama] bin Laden says he has nuclear agents," Mr. Codd said. "If in fact he does, we might start thinking about radiation again."
Indeed, Mr. McKoy said, FEMA advised local jurisdictions last week to act quickly to prepare for nuclear attacks including radiation detection equipment. The detectors at the Baltimore center need to be calibrated, and they may need new batteries, but they still work, Mr. Codd said.
There's now room for about 50 people in the shelter with 18 able to sit at small cubicles facing each other in the main room, which is equipped with city maps stretching from floor to ceiling.
The nonperishable food stash has to be restocked and there's no room for those inside to sleep, save a few old canvas cots, Mr. McKoy said.
"They'd have to find a spot where they can," Mr. Codd said. "But it's a lot better being in here than being out there."


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