Terror alerts alarming some in the valley | VailDaily.com

Terror alerts alarming some in the valley

Matt Zalaznick

The county’s emergency managers say there is no intelligence indicating threats of a chemical attack on Eagle County. Those officials also are urging jittery residents not to panic or overreact, but to prepare for trouble in much the same way they would for a major snowstorm.

“I feel like this is one of the safest places in the country,” said Eagle-Vail resident Jessica Green. “But I don’t think we should ignore the threats.”

The national terror threat was raised last week from “elevated” to “high.” Bush administration officials, such as Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, have been saying the threat of an attack on American soil is higher than at any time since Sept. 11, 2001.

While Ridge and other officials say intelligence suggests an imminent attack – perhaps some time this week – they also said they didn’t know when or where it might occur or what weapons would be used.

“They’re picking up increased communication, which leads them to believe (terrorists) may be planning something,” Smith said. “And that’s essentially all that there is.”

Safety in lack of numbers

One reason the valley may not be a principal target is that there are no places where significantly large crowds congregate, Smith said

The valley’s water supply would also be hard to attack because of multiple water resources – unlike some cities that get all their water from a single reservoir, Smith said.

“We’re running more risk by overreacting right now,” Smith said.

Some residents said they were more concerned with America’s belligerence on its way toward war with Iraq. That aggressiveness, they said, is stirring up dangerous animosity against Americans, badly straining friendships with important allies, such as France and Germany, and eroding relations with powerful countries, like Russia and China.

Susan Steinhardt of Avon said family members planning to visit her this spring have told her, based on terror threats, they will take separate planes if the country is at war.

“I think people are always worried about the world, but right here, I don’t think we have anything to worry about,” Steinhardt said.

One reason for the increased terror alert is to prepare citizens for intensified security at public buildings and others busy places. And as the country has been asked repeatedly since Sept. 11, the alert urges Americans to be more vigilant.

“There are some sickos around, and I think we’re in danger,” said Curtis Swetow of Minturn. “But I think we’re safe in Vail.”

Swetow said he was worried about the effect on children of continuous terror threats and other traumatizing events, such as the recent sniper shootings around Washington, D.C.

“Kids should be playing baseball; they should be having fun,” Swetow said.

Be prepared

County emergency managers say residents should be prepared for disaster regardless of terror threats because of the potential that always exists for natural or human-caused disasters –or any other event that would prevent people from everyday conveniences, such as medical care and food and water supplies, Smith said.

Valley residents should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least three days, Smith said.

“These recommendations of three days of food and water are good for anything – wildfire, flooding, a winter storm –any kind of event where you could be on your own for a couple of days,” Smith said.

Some residents this week are particularly worried about a chemical attack, but Smith said using duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal a home is extreme. The common practice of sealing windows and outside vents with plastic to insulate from cold can provide a home with some protection from chemical infiltration, however, Smith said.

Residents, however, should be careful when sealing a home because blocking out fresh air can cause a hazardous increase in carbon monoxide. Residents who have sealed a building can monitor carbon monoxide, however, with an inexpensive detector available at many hardware stores.

“I don’t feel frightened that something is going to happen here. I don’t know if anything going happen to the country, though it seems more likely that it will,” said Bill Lantz of Avon. “I’m pretty sure there will be future acts of terrorism –it’s pretty certain.”

On the Net

– American Red Cross – http://www.redcross.org

– Federal Emergency Management Agency – http://www.fema.gov

– Department of Homeland Security – http://www.dhs.gov

– Eagle County – http://www.eagle-county.com

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.

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