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Emergency responders prepare for 'Carmaggedon'

July 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
One week until the mother of all Sig Alerts, and now there are new questions about emergency preparedness. The Interstate 405 Freeway will close between the 10 and 101 freeways next Friday night until the following Monday morning. Here's how the shutdown will affect first responders.

Emergency officials are hoping they won't see many people in cars the weekend of the closure. But you will see plenty of police and fire vehicles around. They're going to set up in hard-to-reach spots before any problems surface.

You may also see something new come out of this closure: emergency medical technicians on motorcycles.

The warnings have been out for weeks: Come the weekend of July 15, don't expect to get anywhere near the 405 in good time.

See a live cam shot of the Mulholland Bridge construction site.

But while the gridlock may prove to be inconvenient for many people, one fear is that it could impede emergency responders.

"Our goal from the minute that someone calls 911 to our resources being on scene is five minutes," said L.A. City Fire Dept. Captain Alicia Mathis. "And we don't expect any different during this time."

Mathis says the department will have an additional 200 firefighters staffed each day of "Carmageddon" with 90 rescue ambulances split between the north and south ends of the closure.

If traffic problems tie up rescue vehicles, L.A. City Fire Dept. choppers will be overhead.

And the department is trying a new approach to ground transportation.

"We're rolling out motorcycles and we're looking at EMT motorcycles that are going to be there to do basic patient assessment should we need to get into those remote areas," said Mathis.

When it comes to law enforcement, the Los Angeles Police Dept. is throwing hundreds of extra officers into the Carmageddon mix.

"We're going to be basically swarming that area with police, fire and DOT, so I think we're going to have a pretty good handle on everything," said LAPD Commander Andrew Smith.

Smith says LAPD's plan is to pre-position officers in areas potentially hard to reach and have its fleet of helicopters standing by. And the department will also lean heavily on its motorcycle officers.

"We'll have officers there already that can respond if it's a short distance. We'll have motorcycle officers in the area that can cut through traffic and get to wherever we need to quickly," said Smith.

No one is certain just how bad the gridlock will be once the 53-hour shutdown of the 405 begins, but one thing officials are certain of is that the extent of Carmageddon will be determined by the public.

"Don't plan on coming through the area, don't plan on coming through one of the secret canyon passes that you used to take when you were a kid. It's all going to be busy, it's all going to be packed up full of motorists," said Smith.

The plan is to have a total of four motorcycle EMTs on duty that weekend. It still needs approval, but it's expected to be made official next week.

Beat Carmageddon with ABC7

The 405 shuts down the weekend of July 16-17, and ABC7 Eyewitness News is your home for the latest traffic news and information. Follow @abc7 and @BeatCarmageddon on Twitter, and use the hash tag #abc7traffic.

ABC7 has also partnered with Waze to help navigate the traffic. Download the Waze app, which provides free turn-by-turn GPS navigation based on the live conditions of the road. Join the community of drivers in Southern California today and beat Carmageddon.

Check out the latest Carmageddon coverage from abc7.com


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