Stateline prepares for worst

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GARDNERVILLE - Although a safety task force is hoping for the best, it's preparing for the worst as far as the New Year's Eve celebration at Stateline is concerned.

Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini and an interstate team of law enforcement and emergency personnel have been training for the big night all year and think they are ready for whatever happens at the casino core.

"Everything seems to be on-line. We feel extremely comfortable. I think we've done everything possible to plan and coordinate with all the agencies," Pierini said. "I think our job has been accomplished."

The sheriff's office will be working with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, El Dorado County Sheriff's Office and paramedics from California and the Tahoe-Douglas district.

The dispatch center and command center of the whole operation will be at the Stateline substation of the DCSO and will include dispatchers from Douglas, South Lake Tahoe and the Nevada Highway Patrol.

Pierini said officers are prepared, but hope all their work won't be necessary.

"I'm just hoping this is all for naught. We have absolutely no idea how many people will be up there. In the summer, the information we had was most of the hotels and motels were booked, but that's not true now. We really believe it will be bigger than normal because of the three-day weekend and it's the year 2000," he said.

Last year was the busiest year the Stateline celebration has seen, and the sheriff's office arrested more people than usual as a result. Pierini said deputies usually arrest about 100 people, but last year booked 160.

Pierini said law enforcement officers in Nevada will have an advantage over those on the East Coast.

"One of things people have been concerned about is the Y2K issue, but we have the advantage because the East Coast will get whatever happens three hours before. So we will have CNN and a couple of other news channels on in the center," he said.

Another creative use of technology will be video cameras in the Stateline corridor that will show those in the command center exactly what is going on as it happens.

"We met again recently to talk about a few loose ends and get the logistics down a little better. The most important thing is communications. They tested all the radios and made sure the camera equipment and the monitors work," Pierini said.

Douglas County Emergency Management Technician Harry Raub said dispatch technicians have repeatedly trained and gone over every possible disaster scenario, including overenthusiastic revelers, serious accidents and the need to call in the National Guard.

"Our commanders talked to the California side. We know what's going to happen for every situation. Everyone knows where everyone else will be. All communications are working good; it's just a matter of when it happens," he said.

The Nevada Highway Patrol is sending backup to Stateline, according to Lt. Tim Hall of the Reno office.

He said NHP has assigned one captain, two lieutenants, 15 sergeants and 70 troopers to the area, in addition to a dispatch technician who will be in the command center.

The officers are coming in from Reno, Minden, Carson, Hawthorne, Fallon and Fernley.

"We're preparing for those areas as well, but the two areas in Nevada listed on the Internet as the places to be are Las Vegas and Stateline. Reno will have parties, but it is not one of the traditional party places in Nevada," he said. "We always have a large contingency, but we will have about 20 more (troopers) than usual."

The Carson Valley's East Fork Fire and Paramedic districts will also be on hand. Two ambulances will be on standby at the Tahoe-Douglas station on the top of Kingsbury, according to Inspector Terry Taylor.

In the Valley, the volunteer firefighters will be on standby, just in case.

"I know Genoa, Johnson Lane and Douglas County Engine Co. will take 24-hour shifts and I'm sure others will be, too," Taylor said. "The various volunteer departments have made manpower commitments from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1. My prediction is there will be a lot of volunteers hanging around the stations those days. The stations are mindful of the potential problems so there will be excellent staffing."


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