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The Madrid terror attack highlighted the vulnerabilities of rail to acts of terrorism. Within weeks, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle introduced legislation to strengthen America’s vast railroad infrastructure, a homeland security issue that had been relatively ignored in the rush to secure airports and seaports. The Madrid attacks do not simply highlight the inadequacies of rail security and the deadly consequences that result; Madrid is a further example of terrorism that specifically targets travel and tourism. The state of Nevada, whose economy relies on tourism, has taken note and has used the force of law to help safeguard resort hotels from terrorism. Considering the countless tourist venues that have yet to augment security voluntarily, other states may soon follow Nevada’s lead. Recent history was no doubt the incentive when Nevada lawmakers moved to enhance the security of the state’s resort hotels, with Nevada statute 463.790, which took effect on Oct. 1, 2003. Since Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists have targeted tourist venues with mechanical precision: the surface-to-air missile attack against an Israeli airliner in Africa; “Shoebomber” Richard Reid’s attempt to bring down an American jetliner; the bombing of a nightclub frequented by westerners in Bali; the attack against the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta; the seizure of a Moscow theater by dozens of Chechen terrorists; and the more recent bombing of a well-known Moscow hotel are just a few examples. The Nevada statute requires each resort hotel to adopt and maintain an emergency response plan. The plan must detail the hotel’s access routes, provide notice regarding the presence of unusually hazardous substances and contain an evacuation plan that would be implemented during an actual emergency. The plan must also be filed with the state’s division of emergency management as well as with each local fire and law enforcement agency in the hotel’s jurisdiction. Uniformity of standards The plan’s purpose is threefold. First, legally compelling the adoption and maintenance of an emergency response plan ensures uniformity among the state’s resort hotels. While general security and theft considerations related to casino gaming led virtually all large resort hotels to implement emergency response plans as part of good business and risk-management practices, smaller or independently operated resort hotels often did not implement such plans. Second, planning now prevents improvising later- during an actual emergency when seconds count and lives are at stake. Finally, legally codifying emergency response plans represents formal notice. Unlike the owners and operators of other vulnerable targets, such as some critical infrastructures that have yet to voluntarily increase security in light of terrorism, the proprietors of Nevada’s resort hotels have no choice but to recognize and accept the imposition of statutorily required emergency-response plans. Ideally, resort hotels will not view the plans as burdensome red tape but as a call to implement additional security measures and increase information sharing between the resort hotel industry and the first responders who share the frontline responsibility in the fight against terror. It is in this way that a seemingly innocuous state statute has national significance. For tourism-dependent states such as Florida, California and New York, the Nevada law may be a model to compel the attention that homeland security rightly deserves but frequently still does not receive from the tourism industry. Although terror attacks continue worldwide, the owners and operators of some tourist venues refuse to accept the importance of meaningful security, the value of emergency planning, or the significance of information sharing. Thus, while some tourist venues excel in their commitment to homeland security, too many others mistakenly view issues related to terrorism and security as matters for the government and not the private sector. The security inconsistencies that result not only increase the likelihood that tourist venues may be attacked but also complicate emergency responses. At least in Nevada, the fallacy of this logic-and the failure of the market to correct itself-led lawmakers to make some aspects of homeland security compulsory. Indeed, the owners and operators of tourist venues around the nation should take note: Lawmakers in other states may be equally unwilling to allow the inaction of some to gamble with the safety and security of others. Those tourist venues that continue to buck the market and sidestep homeland security as a way to cut corners and cut costs may find they are engaging in a wholly different type of gambling. Steven E. Roberts, an NLJ columnist, is a homeland security consultant.

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