Local law enforcement beefs up security

By Julie Fann
Star Staff

The start of war and the recent raising of the nation's terror alert from "elevated" to "high" has local law enforcement officials paying closer attention to what goes on around them. Since Sept. 11, 2001, measures were taken to better protect the public in the event of terrorist activity.
   "All of our law enforcement just stepped up security for government buildings - City Hall, courthouses, dams, power substations - places where risks are higher," said Jim Burrough, director of the Elizabethton/Carter County Emergency Management Agency.
   Health and police officials on Wednesday practiced managing a make-shift clinic at Elizabethton High School for vaccinating all Carter County, Johnson County, and Elizabethton city residents against the small pox virus in the event that a bio-terrorist attack happened.
   Elizabethton High School would be used as the clinic for all city residents, and Hampton High School would be the site where all Carter and Johnson County residents would receive the vaccine.
   "We received an e-mail from the federal government about the terrorist alert being raised. We have already taken steps to vaccinate the public against small pox. The state would have ten days to vaccinate everyone if it came to that," Burrough said.
   Carter County Sheriff, Jim Henson, said that he is asking the public to be more vigilant in the days ahead.
   "We're of course on the look-out for any suspicious activity around the high areas like the TVA dam. About all we can do is keep our eyes open and look for suspicious activity," he said.
   Henson said he received a call from one individual who wanted to know what the word "vigilant" means because she had heard the nation's Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, use the word without explaining its meaning.
   "I felt sorry for her," he said. "Obviously, there are people out there who don't understand at all what's going on."
   Henson said "suspicious activity" of the terrorist variety might meant watching out for people who are "not local"; people who are seen "just prowling around" and exhibiting behavior that is out of the ordinary.
   Elizabethton Fire Department Chief, Mike Shouse, said that, since the terrorist alert was raised his department hasn't really increased security beyond what was implemented after the Sept. 11 attacks.
   "What we've done since September 11th is just keep good tabs on vehicles, making sure they are secured during the day better as well as at night. We've had some additional terrorist-type training, but nothing extra special," Shouse said.
   Approximately two weeks ago, EFD firefighters underwent training in the event of a radiological event, which he said involved being made aware of certain terminology and clues that might indicate a potential problem.
   "In emergency training services, your basic training mechanisms are more along the lines of what not to do, rather than going into a situation," Shouse said. "The biggest thing is to determine if we do have a nuclear or radiological problem and keeping everyone out of that area."