Las Vegas Sun

October 30, 2014

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Casinos slow to submit plans for emergency

Most of the big casinos in Nevada have yet to file emergency response plans with the state, as required under a new law.

Only 14 casinos in Nevada have filed plans with local and state authorities as mandated by the 2003 Legislature, according to the state Division of Emergency Management.

Only five Strip properties have filed their plans, and a total of 13 casinos in Southern Nevada have filed plans.

Hotel officials said that doesn't mean the plans don't exist, said Tim Donovan, president of the Las Vegas Security Chiefs Association.

"You don't get to open your doors without having an emergency response plan in place," said Donovan, whose organization represents about 90 hotels.

The new state law requires that hotels with more than 200 rooms must submit to the local emergency authorities -- police and fire departments -- their plans for evacuations and response to fires, risk assessments and the locations of hazardous materials and emergency equipment.

More than 80 hotel-casinos in Southern Nevada meet the 200-room requirement.

The law required the plans be submitted by Oct. 31. There are no penalties for hotel-casinos that do not file the response plans.

Jerry Bussell, chairman of the Nevada Homeland Security Commission, said he intends to make the plans a priority at the commission's first meeting on Wednesday and believes that hotel-casinos will comply with the law.

"There are no teeth in the law, but there doesn't need to be any," Bussell said. "I don't know a property that won't comply. Ninety percent of the hotel-casinos already have plans in place, and it's just a matter of them reading AB250 and seeing what's required.

"I just think it's one of those things where the word didn't get out."

But Donovan, who is head of security at Mandalay Bay, disagreed.

Information about the new state requirement "was disseminated to the hotels in the second week of September, and we're working to get the information to Metro Police and the Clark County Fire Department," Donovan said.

"Some of the properties did not have a plan on electronic media, so they are working on transferring it to that medium."

Most hotel-casinos should be in compliance with the law by the end of the year, he said.

Gary Derks, operations manager for the state Division of Emergency Management, said the hotel-casinos that have submitted emergency response plans with his office are: the Aladdin, the Cannery, the Stardust, Arizona Charlie's, Sam's Town, The Mirage, Imperial Palace, Fitzgerald's, Green Valley Ranch Station, Railroad Pass, Harrah's in Las Vegas, the Golden Nugget in Laughlin, the Flamingo in Laughlin and Harrah's in Reno.

Derks said he began receiving the plans about a month ago and that the plans are kept inside a locked file cabinet that is inside a walk-in safe that only he and the senior accountant know the combination too.

"Obviously with terrorism you don't want to go out and have these plans advertised," Donovan said. "That's always a big concern."

The law was designed to let firefighters, police and other emergency responders know how the properties would react in the event of a terrorist attack or other disaster.

Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, who co-sponsored the bill, said it's common for such laws to lack enforcement provisions.

"I'm sure that if the local police department was more persuasive the plans would be forthcoming," said Perkins, a Henderson deputy police chief. "If the plans are not yet complete, it would benefit both the property and the police department to collaborate on their completion."

Donovan said that the majority of hotel-casinos already have good working relationships with first responders, citing the annual planning for New Year's Eve.

Metro Police spokesman Officer Jose Montoya said that the vagueness of the law has probably resulted in the slow response from hotel-casinos.

"Some of the hotels have started to comply, but the law doesn't stipulate how we're supposed to get the information," Montoya said.

The Associated Press

and Sun reporter Dan Kulin contributed to this story.

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