UMC would treat president if needed

In addition to local airport, police and fire personnel on high alert for today’s presidential arrival in Las Vegas, staff at University Medical Center will be keenly aware of the visit because the hospital is designated as the facility for treating Barack Obama if he requires medical care during his stay in Southern Nevada.

Planning for presidential travel comes under the purview of the U.S. Secret Service, an agency under fire for letting a felon on an elevator with Obama and allowing a fence jumper to make it into the White House.

Secret Service protection goes beyond surrounding individuals with agents, however, and begins with preventing an incident before it occurs, agency officials say. Advance planning work and threat assessments help identify potential risks to the president.

When the president or any individual protected by the Secret Service comes to Southern Nevada, the agency can ask local police and fire officials to put personnel and other resources in position to counter any potential threat. If the president has an accident or other health care emergency, UMC is where he will be treated.

The Secret Service chooses the hospital in any given jurisdiction that provides the highest level of care, and UMC, with its Level 1 Trauma Center, is that facility in Southern Nevada, said Dr. Dale Carrison, UMC chief of staff.

At UMC, the routine will remain the same for the teams of specially trained trauma personnel prepared to treat victims immediately to keep them alive. The only difference will be the presence of Secret Service agents from about two hours before Obama arrives in Southern Nevada until about two hours after he has departed.

“There’s a heightened awareness just because we know the president’s here. We all have to know the president’s here, so if someone says, ‘The president just got shot!’ then, boom, everything goes just like it’s a Level 1 activation,” Carrison said.

No additional staff are assigned to the Trauma Center because of the presidential visit, and Obama would be treated by the same medical personnel who respond to any other traumatic injury victim brought to UMC, Carrison said.

“The president isn’t going to get any better treatment than you are if you crash your car,” Carrison said. “We take care of everybody the same.”

The Secret Service conducts a new threat assessment and plots new planning scenarios each time a person under its protection comes to Southern Nevada, Carrison said, and UMC routinely is included in those preparations.

Carrison was at liberty to talk about UMC’s role in the Secret Service’s planning because he was not compromising any operational readiness in the security plans. Police and fire officials, however, religiously guard the details of what role the Secret Service calls on them to provide.

Jeff Buchanan, deputy chief for the Clark County Fire Department, said Secret Service officials often ask his department and others in Clark County for personnel and resources to maximize security for people the agency protects.

“They do make specific requests for assets,” Buchanan said. “The jurisdictions do their best to comply with those requests with our limited resources. It’s not without bounds, but we do our best.”

Police handle requests to help with a presidential visit as they would in providing security with any other special event, the details of which are never discussed with anyone who falls outside the “need-to-know” criteria, Las Vegas police officer Larry Hadfield said.

“We work with them,” Hadfield said of the Secret Service, “but that’s about as in depth as I’m going to go.”

Carrison’s association with the Secret Service dates to June 1964, when he was in plain clothes as an investigator with the Orange County, Calif., sheriff’s office supplementing security for President Lyndon Johnson, who was dedicating the University of California, Irvine.

Carrison knows the agency has come under fire of late, but overall he praises the federal officials he has dealt with in the past.

“I’ver never seen the Secret Service leave anything to chance,” Carrison said. “Despite the bad publicity, it’s a terrific agency.”

Contact Steven Moore at or 702-380-4563.

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