three months ago, terrorism -- that room can instantly be transformed
into a fully stocked emergency operations center with its own
communication and power systems.
"One thing about Laguna Beach, as a victim of natural disasters,
is that we've responded to situations over time that have prepared us
for anything that might come our way," said Lt. Mike Hall of the
Laguna Beach Police Department.
But after high-profile terrorist warnings for the Golden Gate
bridge last year, news of tighter security procedures at the Times
Square New Year's celebrations and the formation of the Department of
Homeland Security, there have been questions about Laguna's own level
As one of the police department's representatives on the Orange
County terrorism Working Group, which is in turn linked to the Joint
Terrorism Task Force with the FBI, Hall acknowledged that Laguna is
on the low side on the scale of possibilities.
"But we also know that it is possible to occur anywhere, anytime,"
Some might chuckle at the idea that Laguna could be in the
crosshairs of an Al Qaeda cell, but according to the Laguna Beach
Visitors Bureau, about 3 million visitors come to town on an annual
basis, making it one of the top cultural destinations in the county.
Also, with the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant just 17 miles south
of town, the possibility of terrorism had been on the minds of Laguna
police and fire authorities even before Sept. 11.
"We are better prepared today than prior to Sept. 11," Battalion
Chief Jeff Latendresse said. "We have gone through and trained
personnel in chemical agents, and the department purchased suits and
respirators that would protect us from certain types of chemicals."
Personnel safety is one of the greater concerns when faced with
chemical attacks. All fire engines carry antidotes for nerve agents
in addition to the medical, rescue, hazardous materials and
firefighting equipment. Firefighters have also been trained in
triage, allowing them to delegate resources to the most severe areas.
"We're of no benefit if we can't perform our job," Latendresse