Department of Homeland Security asks residents to be alert, vigilant

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   Citizens of Tennessee have a responsibility not only to themselves, but to others across the state as part of homeland security.
   "Stay connected with local authorities, be alert and be vigilant," said Maj. Gen. Jerry D. Humble, Director of the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security.
   Humble, who serves as adviser to Gov. Phil Bredesen on issues of homeland security, said he feels that being prepared to fight terrorism on the local level is the most important part in the war on terror. "The battle will be won on the local level by local law enforcement, emergency workers and citizens," he said. "The governor and I believe this war on terrorism will be successful and will be won on the local level."
   An old saying states that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and that will be the approach of the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security in dealing with possible terrorist threats. "We're going to do things to prevent and deter terrorism," Humble said, adding that if necessary, the state will respond to terrorism, but the main goal is to prevent terrorist actions from occurring.
   In the news recently, authorities took two Egyptian nationals into custody for questioning following an incident where one of the two was observed taking photographs at a TVA dam facility near Knoxville. Incidents such as these raise questions of safety among some concerned citizens across the state. Some residents of Tennessee also feel concerned that terrorists may attempt to attack Oak Ridge National Laboratories. "I feel very confident that Oak Ridge National Laboratories is safe, I was just there. I feel very confident that our TVA dam facility is safe, I was just there," said Humble, who recently completed a visit to the Northeast Tennessee area.
   Citizens play a vital role in keeping their communities safe on the local level. By reporting suspicious activity in their neighborhood or anywhere they see it, citizens can help local law enforcement investigate possible terrorist activities. Humble urges that citizens use a "common sense approach" when reporting on suspicious activity and to only report things that are "truly out of the ordinary."
   Despite requests from the state and national governments to be ever vigilant, citizens should not allow the possibility of a terrorist attack on the nation or in their home communities to rule their lives, Humble said. "We cannot let the threat of terrorism terrorize us," he said.
   The federal office of the Department of Homeland Security reminds citizens to "make a kit, make a plan and be informed," on its Web site (http://www.dhs.gov).
   Officials with the federal department recommend that people make a survival kit to keep in their homes that contains three-days worth of non-perishable food, flashlights, a battery powered radio, extra batteries for the flashlights and radio, a first aid kit and a supply of necessary medications, a manual can opener, duct tape and pre-measured plastic sheeting in case it becomes necessary to seal off a room.
   Citizens are also advised to make sure that other family members know how to get into contact with one another and what the plan of action is if they are forced to seek shelter in their homes. Residents are also asked to become familiar with what the community's action plan is and if there is a community shelter.