Davis orders increase on terrorism preparedness

By Don Thompson The Associated Press
Thursday December 13, 2001

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gray Davis ordered five state agencies to increase their terrorism preparedness Wednesday at the recommendation of his terrorism task force. 

He plans to outline the measures to national Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge during a meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C., where he will seek federal aid for California’s safety measures. 

“This is an act of war. I think he’s going to be pretty aggressive in seeking reimbursement,” said George Vinson, Davis’ special security adviser. 

“It’s going to be extremely high,” Vinson said, with the California Highway Patrol alone spending as much as $1 million a day above its normal budget during periods of high alert. 

At the same time, Davis plans to discuss California’s new “staged alert system” that ranks warnings of terrorist threats based on credibility and helps determine when threats should be made public. 

Federal authorities could use the warning system as a model to help them determine whether to make public unsubstantiated rumors or reports, Vinson said. 

Davis said the increases in planning and training he ordered from state agencies Wednesday are “designed to make our prevention and response efforts more efficient and effective.” 

He told the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to provide counterterrorism training to police, fire and other emergency workers, as well as doctors, hospitals and public health officials. 

He ordered the Health and Human Services Agency to plan for long-term crisis counseling for terrorism victims and their families, and to make available mental health, alcohol and drug and other social services. 

The same two agencies were directed to develop a registry of medical, public health and scientific experts who could provide information on infectious diseases, biological hazards, poisons and radiation dangers to state and local health officials. 

The highway patrol will work with private businesses and consultants, as well the Environmental Protection Agency and health agency, to develop better security at potential targets like nuclear and hazardous waste facilities. 

And the Department of Information Technology was ordered to review the state’s vulnerability to cyberterrorism annually. 

The recommendations came from the State Strategic Committee on Terrorism Davis established two months ago, a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The committee is made up of more than 150 local, state and federal law enforcement, fire, health and other officials.