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EMERGENCY SERVICE WORKERS ARE PLANNING NOW FOR 2002

SHARE EMERGENCY SERVICE WORKERS ARE PLANNING NOW FOR 2002

A team of emergency service workers from Utah made a sobering discovery while visiting Atlanta about a month before the Olympics.

During a tour of the Games' central communications center, the Utahns found rows of emergency dispatch desks absent of computer terminals. Only a few weeks before the centennial Olympics and the world was watching - but emergency workers apparently weren't ready to listen.Such delays can't happen if Salt Lake City is to host "the best winter Olympics ever" in 2002, agreed a state contingent of police, fire and emergency service leaders Friday during an Olympic debriefing session.

Now's the time to prepare.

"Some people have asked, `You're six years away from the Olympics, and you're already preparing?' " said Salt Lake Fire Battalion Chief Tim Hynes. "Well, now is the time we need to start getting involved."

Cooperation between Salt Lake City's Olympic Organizing Committee and local emergency service agencies is pivotal to the Games' success, added Tynes.

On-the-job training is also essential. Several World Cup skiing and skating competitions in Utah the year before Salt Lake's Olympics will allow organizers and emergency workers to test equipment and gain problem-solving experience not found in Atlanta.

The security catch phrase in Atlanta was "this has never been tested," said Utah Public Safety Capt. Stuart Smith.

"We had better have everything up and running long before our Olympics begin," said Smith.

Other committee members called for a tighter credential system, saying they were dismayed with Atlanta's "loose" system that allowed volunteers to slip into venues and locations without proper authorization.

Local emergency workers face an enormous task protecting thousands of Olympic visitors - but it's vital to maintain quality service for Utahns living along the Wasatch Front.

"The level of public service for (Utah) taxpayers cannot drop," said Smith.