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Audit Shows Slow Progress On Emergency Preparedness For City Of LA

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Four years after the city was warned about its weak emergency preparedness, only modest progress has been made toward developing a comprehensive disaster response plan, according to an audit released Thursday by City Controller Wendy Greuel.

Less than half of the 56 recommendations in a 2008 audit of the city’s emergency readiness strategy have been met, according to the audit.

Greuel’s audit highlighted some improvements, including a new Emergency Operations Center for coordinating the city’s emergency planning, response and recovery efforts, and an agreement with the American Red Cross to boost emergency readiness.

Among the main issues still unresolved is poor cooperation between the city’s Emergency Management Department and the five other disaster-relevant city departments — the Airport, Port, Convention Center and the Transportation and Recreation and Parks departments, according to the audit.

The city also lacks a plan for sheltering people in the wake of a major disaster, according to Greuel.

“Los Angeles is vulnerable to a multitude of disasters from earthquakes, mudslides and fires, to terrorist and other man-made threats, and we need a world-class response plan to fulfill our most important obligation of ensuring the safety of all Angelenos,” said Greuel. “I urge the mayor and council to take a hard look at my audit and implement its recommendations.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued an executive order last week directing all city departments to boost their emergency plans up to the standards of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The mayor also announced an agreement with the Red Cross in March to boost the city’s disaster preparedness. The PrepareSocal initiative aims to boost the number of available shelter spaces during a natural disaster from an estimated 210,000 today to 500,000, and increase the number of trained disaster volunteers from about 1,500 to 4,000.

Greuel said the economic recession and state budget crisis have hindered the city’s efforts to hire enough staff to coordinate emergency preparedness activities or to pay for training and exercises.

The audit recommends changing the city’s administrative code to give the Emergency Management Department more authority to oversee emergency readiness in other city departments.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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