Security Officials Warn Of Shortcomings In DC’s Terror Response Plans

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Security experts are warning that Washington, D.C., is unprepared for a terrorist attack, alleging emergency response protocols are inadequate and lack an overarching structure of authority.

Despite officials in the D.C. Metro region spending over $1 billion in federal homeland security grants since 9/11, experts say the city is not necessarily any safer, particular with the rise of “lone wolf” style attacks. The city’s mass evacuation plan has been revised at least five times in the last decade, but continues to fail when tested, reports Newsweek.

The failures of their protocols were exposed most recently in 2015, when a Metro train broke down in a tunnel near the L’Enfant Plaza station during a track fire. One person died during the incident and over 90 people went to the hospital, largely due to a complete failure in the emergency response. Radio contact could not be established with Metro personnel or riders on the train, causing a delayed evacuation. Similar problems were exposed in the wake of 9/11, leaving experts shaken it could still be a problem in 2015.

Some officials also say the current mass evacuation plan leaves a vacuum of authority and responsibility, causing confusion during a crisis. Despite revisions and assurances from security officials, insiders say the plan is still lacking, and would leave the city in gridlock during an emergency. (RELATED: DC Bars Boost Security After Orlando Terror Attack)

“What they had was only a basic tactical transportation plan,” a source from D.C.’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency told Newsweek. “What it showed was all the evacuation routes and basically the stuff they might do in a crisis, such as the police directing traffic. But it didn’t have an overarching authority, like, when everything hits the fan, what their roles and responsibilities are.”

Security measures are being boosted by District clubs, bars and restaurants in the wake of the terror attack in Orlando. Owners and employees are reworking safety procedures to deal with the potential threat on social settings from lone wolf style attacks.

“If you see something say something,” Mark Lee, executive director for the D.C. Nightlife Hospitality Association, told WUSA9. “All public spaces are vulnerable today, and Washington is no exception.”

The D.C. Nightlife Hospitality Association is organizing a two-day workshop for security training to be hosted in July, instructing owners on how they can better protect their establishments from “soft target” attacks. Popular gay clubs and bars in the District have already implemented stricter security measures, banning backpacks on the premises and posting door monitors during business hours.

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