Who’s in, who’s out is the question when Capitol begins issuing gas masks
DENVER – Lawmakers were trying to figure out who was in and who was out as the state Highway Patrol began drawing up a list Tuesday of full-time Capitol workers who will receive “escape hoods” – essentially oversize gas masks with a filter – to be used in the event of a fire or terrorist attack.Lawmakers and the governor’s office were caught by surprise when they learned troopers were drawing up a list of people who would get the equipment that would provide 20 minutes of air to people trapped in the Capitol. The 400 escape hoods were paid for with federal grants the state received for homeland security; the Highway Patrol had no idea how much they cost.Capt. Ron Woods, who heads the security detail at the Capitol, said the 100 state lawmakers and their staff will get the equipment. So will the governor and his staff. Even the press, but only those who work at the Capitol full-time. Part-time staffers are on their own.Colorado has a part-time Legislature, which only meets four months each year, raising questions of who is be covered. When the Legislature is in session, the population working at the building quadruples.Woods said there is no way to protect everyone at the Capitol.”There will be days when there are school groups coming into the Capitol, tour groups. Those are tangibles that on any given day I can’t accommodate. It just wouldn’t be feasible,” Woods said. He said it would be impossible to train people in the hoods’ proper use.Lawmakers said the plan was ill-conceived.”This is an example of homeland security by committee,” said House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, who said he was unaware of the plan.House Minority Leader Joe Stengel, R-Littleton, said he also was not told about it. He said it was an example of waste because of rules that force states to spend the homeland security money or lose it.”They have all that money and they have to spend it. No one said anything about a gas mask to me. The stupidity of some of this stuff just blows my mind. I’ll probably be a casualty,” he said.Troopers also apparently forgot to tell Gov. Bill Owens. His spokesman, Dan Hopkins, said he had not heard about it and would have to check with the Highway Patrol.Woods said the Highway Patrol’s prime duty at the Capitol is to ensure continuity of government.”I thought this was one tool to protect the individuals who work at the Capitol. Every target is iconic. What is more iconic than the executive or legislative branches of government?” he asked.Vail – Colorado
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