Threat of terrorism in Tri-State region is not impossible

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

"We need you." This was the resounding theme last night as a spokesman from the U.S. Coast Guard Office in Huntington, W.Va., met with members of the Lawrence County amateur radio association and members of ham radio groups, law enforcement and emergency services agencies throughout the Tri-State.

Coast Guard spokesman James Perry told the approximately 30 people assembled that the world changed on Sept 11, 2001, and the safety and security we had prior to the terrorist attacks in Washington, D.C., and New York City cannot be taken for granted anymore.

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Perry told the group that even in the relatively peaceful and remote Tri-State, terrorist attacks are not out of the question. The numerous power plants, factories, chemical and refining facilities and even the locks and dams dotting the Ohio River are all potential targets.

He also mentioned the possibility that terrorists traveling through the area on their way elsewhere could wreak havoc without ever intending to target our community.

"Don’t forget that the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania circled over our area, and headed back east," Perry said.

Perry invited the local amateur radio operators and government officials to consider joining the Coast Guard Auxiliary. "We’re always looking for new people." Prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, the Coast Guard’s 19 active duty members spent most of their time handling regulatory duties involving local businesses and industries that use the area’s waterways as transportation for their products.

After Sept. 11, 10 reservists were called into active duty and a new responsibility for homeland security was added. Perry said this is a large undertaking, and all help is appreciated.

"You are our eyes and ears," Perry told them. "You see what goes on. We can’t be everywhere all the time. That’s why we need you."

"Be aware of what’s going on around you. Note any suspicious activity, and if you see something, call the National Response Center and report it."

Suspicious activity includes but is not limited to such things as people photographing or drawing sketches of industries, government buildings and bridges, unknown or suspicious persons trying to rent boats, unknown or suspicious persons trying to drop off or sell items or merchandise to any of these places.

In addition to homeland security issues, Perry said the auxiliary also serves the community through boating education and inspection programs.

Lawrence County Emergency Management Deputy Director Larry Jewell noted during the meeting that ensuring the safety of the shores of Lawrence County– even without the worry of terrorism– is a sizeable responsibility: the county has some 43 miles of shoreline. The county’s landmass along the Ohio River is greater than that of Boyd and Greenup counties in Kentucky and Cabell County, W.Va. combined.

Lawrence County Amateur Radio Emergency Services/Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (ARES/RACES) president Michael Love said the local group had invited Perry to its regular meeting but decided to extend an invitation to their counterparts in Kentucky and West Virginia, as well as government and rescue officials with whom ham operators work