- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

A Michigan congressman who toured the Metropolitan Police Department's Emergency Operations Center yesterday said cities across the country could benefit from the type of coordinated response plan to terrorist attacks being put in place by the District.
The tour came in response to criticism from members of Congress over how the District handled the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon.
"I didn't know this place was here," said U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, Republican chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District.
Mr. Knollenberg was personally escorted by D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey through the new three-room facility inside the police headquarters building at 300 Indiana Ave. NW.
The chief pointed out and described everything from the emergency center's ability to view live helicopter camera feeds over a crash site to how and where local police would communicate with the FBI and the Secret Service in executing an evacuation plan.
"This has to be a regional response," Chief Ramsey said. "I think having the ability transcend local, state and federal law enforcement lines is essential during an emergency."
The nucleus of the facility is the Intelligence Operations Center. It has the capacity to display 84 different television images and can quickly be connected with "up to 40 fixed location video feeds" from places such as Union Station, the U.S. Capitol and Metro Center, Chief Ramsey said. Clocks indicating the time in Moscow, London, Honolulu, Denver, Los Angeles and the District line the walls.
In the two other rooms the Command Information Center and the Joint Command Control Center Metropolitan Police will communicate directly with the FBI and Secret Service agents, who will occupy these rooms. Inside each is a diamond-shaped row of desks with computers and a full bank of television screens on the walls.
The center also is capable of communicating directly with the headquarters of the mayor's Emergency Management Agency at 14th and U streets NW for handling major disasters such as storms or floods.
Based on what he saw during the tour, Mr. Knollenberg said criticism over the District's response to the Sept. 11 attacks was "overstretched."
"I don't think anyone was really up to speed on this stuff," he said.
The House Appropriations Committee had voted to withhold certain federal funds until the city submitted an emergency operations plan. Since receiving the plan on Sept. 25, Mr. Knollenberg has pledged to work with the District to ensure that resources necessary to react to emergencies are available.
Chief Ramsey said he didn't expect his Emergency Operations Center to be in service before the Sept. 29 and 30 World Bank/IMF meetings, which were cancelled. But the facility was pushed into gear just moments after the first plane rammed into the World Trade Center three weeks ago.
By the time the other hijacked planes met their targets, the center was totally operational, Chief Ramsey said. Local and federal officials used the center to dispel media rumors and coordinate an effective response.
The heroism displayed by officers and firefighters responding to any serious tragedy needs to be backed by an elaborate "support network," the chief said. "There are places across the country where the relationships between local, state and federal authorities are not very good, and they're going to have to be."
Mr. Knollenberg agreed, saying faced with an emergency more massive than what happened Sept. 11, "terrorists could take advantage of a city's vulnerability."
"I think we need this kind of program in every city all across the country they are all targets," he said.

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