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Sunday, September 18, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Reviewing disaster plans nothing new for cities

WASHINGTON — Big-city mayors fearing the next Katrina-size disaster agree a federal review of their emergency plans is a good idea — just as it was years ago.

"I thought that's what they've been doing since Sept. 11," said Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, puzzled over President Bush's order to ensure cities are prepared for an all-hazards threat — whether from terrorists or Mother Nature.

In a nationally televised speech Thursday night, Bush ordered the Department of Homeland Security to review emergency-response and evacuation plans for the nation's 50 largest cities, including Seattle. Mayors of those cities said their plans already are on file with the department, and are updated annually, as a condition of receiving millions of dollars in security grants.

"I felt that was an overall part of the process, to make sure we are taking steps to do a better job," said Anaheim, Calif., Mayor Curt Pringle, a Republican. "That's what we've been doing on a continual basis."

Homeland Security teams this weekend are conducting conference calls with state and local authorities to begin sifting through the plans. They specifically will be looking for strategies to prepare and respond to natural disasters in an era that has been focused on the next terror attack.

"Since 9/11, as a nation, our preparedness has increased dramatically," Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said. "We need to ensure that in major metropolitan areas, preparedness is an all-hazards preparedness. So we're going to have a look at these individual plans to ensure they reflect that."

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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