Even small towns should prepare

Published 4:11 am Wednesday, November 20, 2002

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP – Managing Editor
Since the taped voice of a terrorist was aired over a week ago, the citizens of our nation, both here and abroad, have been warned of looming terrorist attacks. Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, our nation has been warned on several occassions that we may be targets of yet another act of terror.
The new Office of Homeland Security has been established and we have seen the color-coded terrorism warning system. Due to threats made on the newly-released audio tape, the current terrorism threat level is at "elevated" or "yellow."
While it is sad that we have to live by color-coded threat warnings, it is good to have a warning system in place. How efficient and practical the system is can only be tested through time.
The coded system does leave several questions. Most obviously, what the average citizen should do as the warnings escalate to orange (high) or red (severe).
I'm sure that the warnings were not designed to be treated like weather warnings. When a tornado warning is issued, many of us immediately seek shelter and do whatever is needed to protect ourselves and our families. But, terrorist warnings will not come and go like a storm cloud. These warnings could last for days, weeks or even months.
Although we can not pack ourselves into a storm shelter during a terrorist warning, we can do something. During these times, we are encouraged to go about our regular routine, but remain open and perceptive to our surroundings. We are encouraged to report anything we would consider suspicious and out of the ordinary.
Law enforcement agencies on all levels are having to regroup and rethink the way they protect their jurisdictions. But, the Office of Homeland Security does offer some suggestions for people to help them protect their communities.
First on that list is to know your routine and be alert as you go through your daily business. Understanding these routines will help you spot anything out of place.
Be aware of your surroundings by getting to know your neighbors at home and while traveling. Be on the lookout for suspicious activities such as unusual conduct in your neighborhood, workplace and while traveling.
The office also suggests that we take what we hear seriously. In Georgia a female reported to law enforcement that she overheard a group of men talking about a bomb. While the men proved not to be terrorist, the woman did do the right thing if she actually heard what she said she did. If we do hear something, we should report it to law enforcement.
For more information on what local communities can do to prepare for such attacks, visit www.whitehouse.gov/homeland. The "Citizen Preparedness Guide" is easily downloaded for viewing.
Historically, terrorist attacks don't happen in small communities. But, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

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