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Sisolak signs bill increasing oversight of casinos’ emergency response plans

Updated June 6, 2019 - 8:54 pm

Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed a bill strengthening the law requiring casinos to file emergency response plans in the wake of the Route 91 Harvest festival mass shooting.

Both the Senate and the Assembly last week unanimously approved Senate Bill 69, which included recommendations from a special task force to improve years of lax state oversight of the security plans.

But one of the most important recommendations — finding money to modernize the state’s outdated electronic system that tracks the emergency plans — was left out of the bill.

Caleb Cage, chief of the Nevada Division of Emergency Management, was not available for comment Thursday.

In an interview earlier in the year, Cage said the current tracking system is sufficient and there would be other opportunities to find money to improve it.

Caleb Cage, chief of the Nevada Division of Emergency Management, speaks in Las Vegas in Decemb ...
Caleb Cage, chief of the Nevada Division of Emergency Management, speaks in Las Vegas in December 2017 during a Nevada Homeland Security Commission meeting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The Nevada Resort Planning Task Force was created last year after a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation found that no enforcement measures were ever written into the 2003 law. The lack of enforcement resulted in little state monitoring of the plans, including those at Mandalay Bay, where a gunman fired into the festival from his suite, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more, records showed.

The new law forces casinos to file updated emergency plans with the state every year by Nov. 1.

It allows the emergency management chief to report any casino that does not comply to the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Gaming regulators have authority to impose fines and suspend and revoke casino licenses.

SB69 also increases oversight of emergency plans filed by local governments, school districts and utilities. And it requires local governments to file response plans to deal with cybersecurity attacks.

Sisolak praised the improved version of the law Thursday.

“I was proud to sign legislation into law that strengthens requirements for emergency response plans for cities, counties, schools, and resort hotels to improve our ability to keep Nevadans and visitors safe,” the governor said in a statement.

The resort task force began its work last year after the Review-Journal reported that the emergency management division had not reviewed the security plans at Mandalay Bay and most of the other Strip casinos for nearly five years.

Most Strip resorts also had not provided updated plans to the state during that period, records showed.

A division official directly responsible for overseeing the emergency plans acknowledged during the newspaper investigation that he had not read the plans in years and had no resources to monitor them.

There was no evidence the oversight lapses allowed the Route 91 shooter to attack the concert site with high-powered rifles and then kill himself Oct. 1, 2017.

But former Gov. Brian Sandoval voiced concerns about the weak controls over the emergency response plans and pushed for the task force.

One of the panel’s goals was to improve cooperation between the state and the casinos, as security plans are revised amid increasing threats of domestic and international terrorism.

The task force, which included state and local officials and casino executives, put together a comprehensive emergency response guide to help the resorts. SB69 requires the emergency management division to review and update the guide every year and make the new version available to casinos.

Under the law, a casino emergency plan must provide a drawing or map of all areas within the buildings and grounds of a casino, with a description of each area. A drawing or description of the internal and external access routes also must be included.

Casinos also have to provide an evacuation plan, the location of emergency equipment and command posts, the telephone number of the emergency response coordinator and a description of any public health or safety hazards.

All this information must also be submitted to local fire and law enforcement agencies.

SB69 requires casinos to add the names of employees responsible for compliance and submit written certification that their plans are up to date.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter.

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