Security equipment not very secure
BY CLIFTON ADCOCK World Staff Writer
Sunday, September 09, 2007
A homeland security
unit is stored in a
rented Tulsa facility.
A key piece of homeland security
equipment was moved last week to
a secure $1.4 million storage facility in Oklahoma City.
The building is monitored 24
hours a day via closed-circuit cameras, is fenced and requires a card
key to enter, said Lance Musgrave,
the business manager for the Oklahoma City Fire Department.
Meanwhile, an identical piece of
equipment -- an Urban Search and
Rescue tractor-trailer rig that officials say is one of the most expensive pieces of equipment in the
state's regional response plan --
sits in an unguarded, unfenced
rented facility in east Tulsa.
Both the Oklahoma City and Tulsa fire departments received their
Urban Search and Rescue -- or
USAR -- trucks around the beginning of the year, said Kerry Pettingill, director of the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security.
The construction of a Tulsa homeland security storage facility, which will be funded by
a sales tax passed by voters in
2006, originally was scheduled
to start next year, but it now
appears that the project might
not receive construction funds
until fiscal year 2010.
For now, the Tulsa Fire Department's $1.2 million USAR
tractor-trailer rig is being
housed in a facility that is subleased from the Otis Spunkmeyer cookie company for
two years for $30,000 a year.
Although the property is unfenced and has no security
checkpoints, it does have security cameras, paid for with
homeland security funds, that
can be moved once the new facility is built, and security
guards patrol the rented facility, said Dennis Beyer, the Tulsa Fire Department's homeland security chief.
But aside from the warehouse's locked bay doors,
there's little to deter a person
from entering the property.
A reporter was able to enter
on two evenings, park a vehicle only a few feet from the
bay doors, knock on the doors
and, in one case, try to open
them without intervention or
notice from guards or police.
During three daytime visits,
firefighters were found at the
warehouse, with the bay doors
open and the USAR tractor-trailer rig and accompanying
1-ton trucks in plain sight. Later that evening, however, the
facility was unstaffed.
A check of burglar alarm
permits with the city showed
no registered burglar or fire
alarm systems at the facility.
Although city entities may
have alarms without registering them with the city, they almost always do so to prevent
confusion if an alarm company
calls in a tripped alarm.
motion sensors and alarms are
being installed, according to
Beyer and Capt. R.B. Ellis, the
technical rescue coordinator
for the Tulsa Fire Department and the Oklahoma Task Force
1 program manager.
The Tulsa Fire Department
hopes to obtain a second
USAR tractor-trailer rig, at
least two more 1-ton search
and rescue trucks, a K-9 unit
and a water-rescue unit.
The added equipment will
push storage space at the
9,962-square-foot facility to its
limits, Fire Department officials say. Even with just the
current equipment, a deployment of emergency workers
from the rented facility would
be complicated, they say.
Joe Piccinini, chief of finance for the department,
said: "We understand the
need for it (the building's construction) to be pushed back,
but our position is if there is
any possibility it can be
pushed forward, we definitely
support that. Timing is a critical issue for us simply because
of the amount of equipment
we're receiving, the amount of
training taking place and the
fact that we could be deployed
at any time."
Pettingill said that although
the USAR equipment belongs
to the city, it serves an important role throughout the state in search and recovery. He
was surprised to learn that
construction on the facility
might not begin until 2009.
Budget and space constraints often force departments to make do with what's
available, Pettingill said, but
he added that state officials
prefer for homeland security
equipment to be stored in a secure facility -- one that is
fenced and gated with a pass
code, an alarm system and, in
some cases, security cameras.
"We certainly don't expect
every place to (have such measures), but if they're going to
do it right, that would be the
way to do it," he said.
Everything they purchased
was "items they came to us and said, 'This is what we
want.' It's not like they were
given something they didn't
know how big it was going to
be," Pettingill said. "Obviously, we're spending a large
amount of money on equipment, and we would like to
have it protected."
Clifton Adcock 581-8367