County prepared for emergency

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 11, 2001

Staff Writer

Today marks a month since the United States was attacked by terrorists and local officials are prepared to deal with any emergency situation that may occur in Pike County.

"Local government is responsible for the care of its citizens," Pike County Emergency Management Agency Director Larry Davis said during a meeting held to make sure different agencies have a "game plan" in case this area is the target of a terrorist strike.

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Mike Davis, project manager for the city of Troy Utilities Department, said the city is stepping up security at its well sites and water tanks just as a preventative measure.

"Basically, all we can do is upgrade and keep out," Davis said, regarding contamination of the drinking water.

But, Davis also said security at the electric substations has also been heightened by making sure all gates are locked.

At another meeting Wednesday afternoon, Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said the city is updating its Standard Operating Procedures of the water supply system as a precaution.

"It’s one of those extra precautions we want to take," Lunsford said, adding the police department has also worked toward improving security at large gatherings, such as Troy State University home football games.

Jacque Chirico said Edge Regional Medical Center has always had a plan to deal with mass disasters, but is now facing a new threat ­ bioterrorism.

"We’ve never had a scare like we have, now," Chirico said.

She said doctors and nurses will be looking for symptoms of bioterrorism because they realize early detection and prevention are the only means to prevent death.

ERMC, she said, has a plan for chemical warfare that includes decontamination and has "plenty of medical people" available in the event of a large incident.

Carol Bassett of the Pike County Health Department said officials there have been going through bioterrorism training and will assist where they can doing such things as transporting samples to the lab or providing nursing assistance.

Lockheed Martin Pike County Operations has been playing down its place in the community because of being a potential target.

Randy Stevenson, plant manager, said numerous security measures are being taken at the Pike County facility.

The terrorist attacks on the United States have forced Lockheed Martin to bus employees in and out in order to prevent unwanted guests and no visitors are permitted at the site. Also, signs that might draw attention to the facility have been removed.

"We’re doing everything we can do to prepare for the worst," Stevenson said during the meeting.

Armed, off-duty officers from the Troy Police Department and from the Pike County Sheriff’s Department are also working security at Lockheed Martin.

Capt. Dennis Riley of the Pike County Sheriff’s Department said extra patrols are working around Lockheed Martin, the courthouse and the schools.

The Troy Police Department is staying in contact with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chief Anthony Everage said.

"You’ve got to have a plan and be aware, but if it comes, you’re going to be overwhelmed," Everage said.

Brundidge Police Chief Moses Davenport said his officers have been directed to notify the proper officials if anything out of the ordinary happens. They are also being told to be more cautious when approaching vehicles and when dealing with any accident that involved an 18-wheeler, in case it is carrying hazardous materials.

Both school systems have their school safety plans that will be put into action in the event of a major incident, representatives of the school systems said.

Troy Fire Chief Ray Rhodes said his department is working with other agencies and Johnny Gibson, president of the Pike County Firefighters Association, said the area volunteer fire departments will do what they can to offer support and backup when needed.

Jane Thrash, community development specialist for the Pike County Chapter of the American Red Cross, said she is available when called.

"We can handle any disaster," Thrash said of the Red Cross.

David Coggins of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency said the biggest thing is training and utilizing what other areas have available.

He said officials here should not be afraid to ask for assistance, which can be sent as soon as they are notified by the local EMA director.

"We have a lot of different resources at our disposal," Coggins said. "All it takes is a phone call."

Lawrence Bowden, chairman of the local Red Cross board, said he was glad to see everyone working together to take preparatory measures since terrorist activity is not likely to cease anytime soon.

"Terrorists operate by making us disfunctional," Bowden said. "They could do it in Pike County and affect the rest of the country."