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Press Release · December 5, 2002

Golden State of Mind: California Less Worried About Terror Attacks Than Rest of Nation

In State Recognized for Natural Disaster Readiness, Less Attention Paid to Homeland Security Planning

SAN FRANCISCO, California, December 5, 2002 – Local officials in California do not seem as concerned about potential terrorist strikes as their counterparts in the rest of the nation, according to a survey report released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). This lower level of anxiety is generally reflected in less emergency planning: Despite the state’s long history of comprehensive natural disaster preparedness, cities here are less likely than those throughout the country to deal with terrorist threats in their local emergency response plans.

In California, 63 percent of city officials say their emergency plans address the prospect of a biological attack, compared to 70 percent in the rest of the United States. The report, Coping with Homeland Security: Perceptions of City Officials in California and the United States, reveals similar gaps in preparedness for other types of terrorist threats, including chemical attacks (58% California to 68% U.S.), car or truck bombs (36% to 44%), and cyber-terrorism (22% to 26%).

“City officials here clearly register concern over possible attacks, but given California’s status as the most populous state in the country and a major destination for immigrants from around the world, it’s surprising homeland security efforts don’t merit greater attention,” says PPIC Research Director Mark Baldassare, who co-authored the report with Christopher Hoene, Research Manager for the National League of Cities. Baldassare notes that officials in the state do appear to act more cautiously than their stated level of concern would lead people to believe: For example, only 38 percent say they are very or moderately concerned about a biological attack, but 63 percent address the issue in their emergency plans.

Officials nationwide, including those in California, agree on the types of facilities that warrant the most security against potential attacks – water supplies, government buildings, transportation facilities, schools, information technology, and hospitals. Again, however, leaders here are less likely to worry about protecting most of these facilities: government buildings (73% California to 77% U.S.), information technology (50% to 61%), hospitals (48% to 61%), and ports of entry (17% to 29%). Baldassare notes that events – such as the recent threats against two California hospitals – always have the potential to alter attitudes.

About the Survey

This report presents the findings of national and state surveys of city officials conducted by the National League of Cities in July and August 2002. The California survey was commissioned and directed by PPIC and co-sponsored by the California League of Cities and the California State Association of Counties. The findings of the national survey are based on a direct mail and fax survey of city officials in 1,971 U.S. cities, of which 725 responded (37%). The California survey is based on a direct mail and fax survey of city managers in all 478 cities in California, of which 317 responded (66%).