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Rod Smith

Emergency-Plan Flap Persists

26 January 2004

Nearly four months after a statutory deadline, state officials this week are still finalizing the list of hotel-casinos required to file emergency response plans with the Division of Emergency Management and correcting the log of who has complied.

Still, confusion lingered with the state claiming only 70 hotel-casinos have filed the required reports, barely half of those on the state log, while gaming industry executives claimed compliance is closer to complete.

Nevada Homeland Security Adviser Jerry Bussell said the real problem is that the state has failed for four months to fulfill the spirit of the new state law.

"I still think it's an information problem, but (the state is) going to have to get the information out to (the companies). At least now we're going in the right direction," he said.

Tim Crowley, public affairs director of the Nevada Resort Association, said the question of compliance would be funny if the issues of terrorism and security weren't so important.

"The bottom line is we're taking this extremely seriously. The purpose of filing the reports is not lost on us. All the bureaucratic problems are nuts, but we're doing whatever necessary to get the job done and protect our guests," he said.

The confusion has arisen over a state homeland security law enacted last summer. Assembly Bill 250 set a deadline of Oct. 1 for filing emergency response plans by all Nevada hotel-casinos that have 200 or more guest rooms, bars that seat 30 patrons or more, restaurants that seat 70 or more customers and are open 24 hours, seven days a week, and casinos.

If a property does not meet all four criteria, it need not report.

The new law says plans must include the location of emergency equipment and any hazardous materials, an evacuation program and a description of internal and external access routes.

The number of hotel-casinos having to submit plans was cut this week from 155 to 139 as the state refined its list of properties required to report, but it needs to be further cut, Deputy Director Kamala Carmazzi told a state Homeland Security Commission hearing Thursday.

And an also undetermined, but small, number of properties may still need to be added to the list because they meet all four criteria.

Compounding confusion about compliance, the state logs show only 70 hotel-casinos out of the undetermined total number have complied with the new law, although most industry spokesmen claim to have complied.

Crowley, for example, said all major properties that are NRA members claim to have already complied with the reporting requirement.

Coast Casinos -- which owns the Barbary Coast, Gold Coast, the Orleans and the Suncoast -- is listed by the state as having filed no emergency response plans, although Suncoast general manager David Ross said his company has not only filed the reports, but has receipts showing they were delivered to the state's emergency management staff.

"We certainly took it seriously. We not only have filed, we have receipts and we've held meetings at the Suncoast on how to comply," he said.

Similarly, the state shows Station Casinos -- which operates Barley's, Boulder Station, Green Valley Ranch Station, Palace Station, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Station Texas Station, Wildfire Casino and Wild Wild West -- has filed no reports, although the company claims to have filed reports for all its operations.

"The plans we submitted were for every one of our properties. Sometimes glitches take place. The fact is we've talked with the division and we're getting the situation resolved," spokeswoman Lesley Pittman said.

She said Station Casinos is resubmitting all its plans again next week, and this time is having them delivered by certified mail, as did Coast Casinos.

Carmazzi and Bussell say the the state has a plan to solve the so-called communications problem.

By the end of Tuesday, Carmazzi said her office should have completed a list of hotel-casinos that actually have to comply and will then mail out a new notice letter advising them of the requirement.

She said the confusion is understandable because this is a new program, and she is pleased with the progress that is being made bringing the industry into compliance.