Pentagon to Issue Escape Masks to Employees
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2003 Every person on the Pentagon reservation will receive "escape masks" in the event the building is attacked again, DoD officials said today.
"(Secretary Rumsfeld) is concerned about the safety of this office building, this command center, this place we call the Pentagon," said Ray DuBois, director of Washington Headquarters Services, which oversees the 208-acre Pentagon reservation.
DuBois and acting director of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency John Jester spoke about the steps taken to protect the employees in the Pentagon and the 40-plus leased buildings that WHS services.
DuBois said the need to protect the Pentagon was brought home on Sept. 11, 2001.
"With everything that is going on in the world, it's probably reasonable -- and certainly sensible -- to assume we may be targeted again," he said. "No one really knows when or how or under what circumstances. But we do know that if such an attack has a level of probability, then we all have an obligation to know what to do."
Between 23,000 and 24,000 people work on the Pentagon reservation. Because it is the nation's military command center in addition to being an office building, it is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Washington Headquarters Services has bought 80,000 escape masks. Force protection employees will train people on how to wear the masks and start issuing them to employees by the end of February.
Employees will keep the masks in their desks. Thousands of other masks will be stashed strategically around the building for those who are away from their offices when an incident occurs and for visitors. Others will be stockpiled outside the building for contractors working on the Pentagon Renovation Project.
DuBois and Jester went over other changes made in Pentagon force protection and talked about the changes yet to come. The biggest change was establishing the Pentagon Force Protection Agency and beefing it up with people and money.
Jester said the Pentagon police force launched an ambitious new hiring program and expects to jump to 900 officers, up from 300 before Sept. 11. He said the Pentagon force salary and benefits are competitive with any police force in the Washington area, and the agency is already training 75 new recruits.
Second, the chief discussed the layered defense that has been put in place since Sept. 11. Defense begins at the roads leading to the Pentagon, continues at the parking lots and subway and bus stops, and includes a new ring around the building now manned by a battalion of Army military police.
He said changes have been made at the entrances to the Pentagon and special response teams have been added. Jester spoke specifically about the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Teams that monitor the atmosphere of the Pentagon and are ready to respond if such an event occurs.
Communications plays a huge role in any response. DuBois said the agency has learned from the events of Sept. 11 and has placed a public address system in all 17 miles of corridors in the Pentagon and outside the building.
The agency also has a computerized warning system that flashes on personal computers throughout the building. DuBois said it is important for employees to heed that communication. In this new world, it's not like the fire drills of the past, he said. In some instances, it may be appropriate to stay put and take shelter in place. In others, people on one side of the building may have to evacuate to another portion. In still other cases, evacuation outside may be the best bet. In any case, the public address and computerized warning systems will direct people what to do.
Other changes are under way. Virginia Route 110, which now runs under the Pentagon Parade Field, is being rerouted away from the building. Other projects include adding a new secure access to the Pentagon's remote mail delivery facility and changing Virginia Route 27 to accomplish that.
Some other issues are not under consideration. For example, Pentagon employees will not receive smallpox or anthrax vaccinations. Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant defense secretary for health affairs, said he's confident that, in the event of an attack with such biological agents, health care officials in the building would be ready to treat everybody in the Pentagon within 24 hours.
DuBois said employees with suggestions or questions should send them by e-mail to PFPA@PFPA.mil.