Sydney workers told pack map, water in case of attack

SYDNEY - Office workers in Australia's biggest city, Sydney, were advised yesterday to prepare emergency packs with a map, water bottle, medicines and clothes in case of emergencies like a terrorist attack.

The Sydney CBD Emergency Sub Plan was launched to help businesses that operate in the city's main business district prepare for a terrorist attack, major fire or other emergency.

"We hope that we never have a terrorist attack in Sydney but it's possible," New South Wales Fire Brigades Commissioner Greg Mullins told Reuters after launching the plan.

Australia is a staunch US ally with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and while it has never suffered a major peacetime attack on home soil, it has been on heightened alert since the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

An Australian architect was found guilty on Monday of planning to bomb Sydney defence sites and the city's electricity grid, becoming the first man to be convicted of plotting attacks under new anti-terrorism laws.

In 2002, 88 Australians were among 202 people killed in nightclub bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali and the Australian embassy in Jakarta was hit by a suicide bomb in 2004.

Mullins said while Sydney's CBD had a major evacuation plan in which people would head to three safe locations, office workers needed to think about how they would survive if stuck in their building or the city for hours or forced to walk home.

"If the buses and trains aren't running and they have to walk home how will they get there? They should have a map, a water bottle, medication if necessary, perhaps some clothing," he said.

"Even a battery radio so they can listen to what is going on. They could put together a plastic bag under their desk."

Mullins said he believed Australians would heed the advice as many Sydney commuters already have emergency plans and kits at home in the case of summer bushfires.

"I think Australians will respond to this. I don't think this is an alien concept," he said.

Around 450,000 people enter Sydney's central business district during working hours and 50-70,000 visit every night.

Mullins said under the plan businesses would be urged to sign up for SMS text messages and emails from emergency services which would tell building managers whether to evacuate or stay inside the building.

- REUTERS

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