Some 10,000 people evacuate downtown L.A. buildings in disaster drill

Thursday, September 9th 2004, 7:14 pm
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Two days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Los Angeles held its largest-ever disaster drill, evacuating about 10,000 people from downtown buildings.

Workers were ushered out of City Hall, police department headquarters and other government buildings Thursday to designated safe areas.

As many as 20,000 people had been expected to take part in the drill but many employees stayed home, authorities said. Workers had been notified of the drill far in advance and some brought bag lunches, lawn chairs and even portable video game consoles.

Evacuations were completed in eight to 16 minutes, assistant fire chief Greg Gibson said. The buildings included the federal building and some high-rises, he said.

Dave Margolias, a contractor who was among those evacuated, called the drill inconvenient but necessary: ``If you don't do this, you won't be prepared when something really happens,'' he said.

``I think that now that we've done it once, everybody will know where to go,'' said another worker, Holly Beckner.

Mayor James Hahn and Fire Chief William Bamattre this week proposed changing the fire code to require a full evacuation every three years of the 22 commercial structures in the city that are 35 stories or taller. The current code requires yearly drills on individual floors, but not such full-scale evacuations.

Meanwhile, firefighters and police in San Diego staged a 20-minute drill testing their response to a terror attack, in which they fought simulated gunbattles, stormed a prop building and defused mock explosives.