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April 16, 2014

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Panel studies how state would respond to similar disaster

If a disaster the size of Hurricane Katrina hit Nevada, could the state coordinate a quick, efficient response?

The Nevada Commission on Homeland Security decided Tuesday to look into the state's policies and procedures to answer that question.

Jerry Keller, former Clark County sheriff and a member of the Homeland Security Commission, said since the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29 he has been pondering how local, state and federal officials would work together and who would be in charge if Nevada experienced such a large-scale emergency crisis.

"It would behoove us all to overlay the disaster of Katrina onto our state in a tabletop exercise or at least a mental exercise to see if we'd be ready for something like that," Keller said Tuesday at the commission's quarterly meeting.

"I think we need to take the opportunity to learn from this."

The federal government's role in dealing with the hurricane has been widely criticized as being slow and disorganized.

Dr. Dale Carrison, chairman of the commission, asked Frank Siracusa, administrator of the Division of Emergency Management, to analyze the state's capabilities.

Siracusa said he would brief the commission on the state's policies and procedures at the next meeting and show "how we interface, how we mobilize and access resources at the federal level."

Commission members also said it would make sense to ask Paul Bailey, program manager for FEMA's Clark County-sponsored Nevada Task Force One and one of the first federal officials to arrive in the Gulf region, Metro Police Capt. Ted Moody and other local authorities who saw the area first-hand to discuss what they learned and observed.

Bob Hadfield, chairman of the commission's finance committee, said Nevada's federal funding for emergency planning is expected to be affected by Katrina because federal money will go to the Gulf Coast. The overall impact, though, is unclear.

He recommended that the commission set aside funding for a Katrina-like training exercise to put the state's emergency equipment and personnel to the test.

"It would be a terrible mistake if we didn't make that recommendation in funding," Hadfield said.

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