Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 8, 2006

Fighting bioterror, Hollywood style

Filed under: Biosecurity,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on March 8, 2006

How do cities and counties prepare for the bioterrorism threat? In Los Angeles, it evidently helps to give out swag. From the Los Angeles Times on Monday:

Los Angeles County has spent at least $2 million in taxpayer dollars intended to prepare for bioterrorism on buffing up the health department’s image, responding to unrelated health scourges and buying questionable supplies and services, a Times review has found.

When public health officials couldn’t round up enough volunteers to take part in a smallpox vaccination drill, for instance, they turned to actors from an old Hollywood standby: Central Casting.

To hire extras to play the role of patients in the half-day drill, the county’s Department of Health Services in 2004 paid the aptly named firm $57,045. That’s not counting what the department ponied up to thank the paid actors and volunteers: $10,000 for gift certificates, $13,600 for pens, digital thermometers and bags to hold the gifts, and thousands more for food and transportation.

What, no iPods?

The paper reported today that the LA County Board of Supervisors is investigating these expenditures in response to the story. Hopefully the county will reimburse the federal government for these obviously misspent funds.

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