Cities cast emergency web

Several major cities have established emergency operations centers, deployed police and emergency workers, and shut down government offices and public schools following today's catastrophic attacks in New York City and the Washington, D.C., area.

Besides informing their citizens through media outlets, government representatives from San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago also have said they plan to use their Web sites to alert citizens about what to do and who to contact during an emergency.

On its home page, New York City (www.nyc.gov) posted information about traveling to and from the city, including information about bridges, tunnels, subway and bus service, train stations, and airports. The city site also put out a call for blood donors, with information about locations to give blood.

Helen Fitzpatrick, spokeswoman for the Seattle Fire Department, said the city activated its emergency operations at 6:45 a.m. PST, within an hour after two airplanes plunged into the World Trade Center towers and a plane crashed into the Pentagon. Seattle officials held a press conference at 9:30 a.m. PST announcing the city's actions.

She said police officers were stationed at the base of the city's landmark Space Needle, which was closed by its private owner, and the Columbia Center, a high-rise building. "The police department is increasing security throughout the city, and the police department is on tactical alert," she said.

She said she presumed that Seattle's Web site (www.ci.seattle.wa.us) would be updated with information regarding emergency operations.

Similar to Seattle, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley held a press conference shortly before noon CST. announcing that the city had opened a 911 center "first thing this morning," said city spokeswoman Heidi Kooi.

She said she believed the Web site (www.cityofchicago.org) would be updated with Daley's remarks and emergency contact numbers.

She said there have been no communications problems, but City Hall had received "a lot of phone calls. If there's been any problems, it's been calling east." She said citizens can call the city's 311 nonemergency center, "and I'm sure we have increased the number of people there receiving calls," she said.

While Chicago city offices -- with a "skeletal staff" -- and schools remain opened, several tall buildings, such as the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Building have closed voluntarily, she said.

In San Francisco, Ron Vinson, the mayor's deputy press secretary, said city officials activated an emergency operations center at 7:45 a.m. PST. He said Mayor Willie Brown has shut down City Hall and all city offices, except for transportation facilities and hospitals. He said the school district also has shut down, and several "identifiable icon buildings," such as the Transamerica Building and Bank of America Building, have closed voluntarily. Bridges remain open, although only vehicle traffic is allowed on the Golden Gate Bridge.

He said city officials have communicated the city's actions mainly through media outlets, but he expected that the city's Web site (www.ci.sf.ca.us) would be updated with the same information.

"San Franciscans are no strangers to this type of drill. Ours come mainly in the form of a natural disaster" or power outages, he said. "San Franciscans are pretty well-versed on what to do and react accordingly."

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