- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2005

D.C. leaders and federal officials are still devising an emergency plan more than five weeks since a wayward pilot breached restricted airspace and nearly four years after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

City officials have returned to the federal government a protocol for dealing with emergencies in the District, saying revisions are needed to protect residents.

“We have made comments on it,” said Barbara Childs-Pair, director of the D.C. Emergency Management Agency. “We have made several additions to it.”

Mrs. Childs-Pair declined to divulge what changes her agency has sought but added that “there are elements of the protocol that have already been implemented.”

Brian Roehrkasse, spokes-man for the Department of Homeland Security, could not be reached for comment.

D.C. and federal officials have been developing a set of procedures for notifying leaders of threats and emergencies since a private plane accidentally flew into restricted D.C. airspace May 11.

The incident prompted federal officials to evacuate the White House, Capitol, Supreme Court and other buildings — without notifying D.C. officials. The situation mirrored the response to the September 11 attacks, when thousands of commuters were put on city streets.

D.C. officials have complained that such haphazard actions hamper efforts to control and move crowds, transport injured persons, dispatch and track emergency equipment, and otherwise manage during a crisis.

Mrs. Childs-Pair said “redundancies” in the protocol have been employed to ensure that officials are alerted. For example:

• Homeland Security and White House operations have been added to the Washington-Area Warning Alert System.

The Secret Service and other agencies already are a part of the alert system, which allows the city’s Emergency Management Agency to monitor various operations.

• Top D.C. officials — including the mayor, city administrator, and chiefs of the police and fire departments — have been added to the federal government’s Alert Notification System, which issues a page to specific persons during an emergency.

The Alert Notification System’s page is in addition to one issued by the Emergency Management Agency.

• The Emergency Management Agency has added a line to monitor Federal Aviation Administration communications.

The Metropolitan Police Department already has access to FAA communications, but its line was not operating during last month’s errant flight.

“My alert capacity has increased 75 percent in terms of notification of potential events or incidents that are occurring,” Mrs. Childs-Pair said.

On June 2, D.C. officials received from Homeland Security a draft of a written protocol, which recommended placing a second police officer at Homeland Security’s operations center and an officer at the Transportation Security Admin- istration (TSA).

During an emergency, those officers are to contact the police department, which will contact the Emergency Management Agency. The agency then will notify the mayor and other top city officials.

Mrs. Childs-Pair said D.C. officials are still discussing with federal officials a security clearance for the officer to be placed at the TSA. She also said it is unlikely that the District will an add a second officer at Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, D.C. Council members Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, and Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, are working on a bill that would reform the EMA’s emergency response system, create a Homeland Security Commission and penalize railroads for hazardous chemical spills.

The bill would heavily affect CSX Transportation Inc., which has successfully fought a D.C. ban on trains carrying hazardous materials from moving through the city.

Mr. Mendelson, chairman of the judiciary committee, said his panel will work this fall on the bill, which has little to do with the protocol.

“It does affect those situations,” he said. “But it doesn’t address those specific negotiations.”

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