Panel Told Resorts Fear Emergency Plans Get Shelved

By  | 

An anti-terrorism panel was told Monday that some Nevada hotel-casinos that now must give the state copies of their emergency response plans are convinced those plans just collect dust and are never looked at.

State Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, made the comment during a meeting of a state Homeland Security Commission subcommittee on bylaws and legislation, terming the plan-filing mandate "an exercise in futility."

Nolan, a nonvoting commission member, didn't name specific resorts, but said some are "absolutely convinced their plans are sitting in boxes and not being reviewed." And if they are being reviewed, he said there's a concern that the job is being done by someone who's not qualified to make a valid assessment.

Glade Myler, a deputy attorney general assigned to the commission, questioned what the state Division of Emergency Management can do with the "volumes and volumes" of detailed reports.

The 2003 Legislature approved the reporting requirement as part of its post-Sept. 11, 2001, anti-terrorism laws - but Myler said no staffing was provided to the division to deal with the documents.

Richard Brenner, a commission member representing the Clark County Fire Department, agreed with Nolan that the current requirement doesn't make sense, and suggested workshops involving resorts and fire, police or other agencies that would the first to respond to a terrorist attack.

Nolan said some key logistical information that would fit in one binder might be a better solution than the long reports that some hotel-casinos have submitted.

Initial response to the reporting requirement was mixed, with the emergency response plans trickling in slowly. Some hotel-casino executives said they were unaware that the requirement even existed. The deadline for filing was Dec. 31.

The mandate, which contains no penalties for failure to comply, was designed to let emergency responders know how the properties would react if there's a terrorist attack or other disaster. The law affects only resorts with more than 200 rooms.

Plans must include the location of emergency equipment and hazardous materials, an evacuation program, and a description of internal and external access routes.

In discussing changes that the 2005 Legislature may have to make in the 2003 anti-terrorism laws, Myler also said the commission was authorized to hold closed meetings when necessary - but that's not the case for any of the 13 subcommittees under the commission.

Myler said Jerry Bussell, the commission's chairman, has asked for an attorney general's opinion on whether the subcommittees can close their meetings. If the opinion is that they can't, then the 2005 Legislature would have to be asked to amend the law to allow for such sessions.