EDOCS

When we think of Homeland Security, most of us think of it as a Washington, DC organization involving the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, etc.  Few of us stop to consider the precautions being taken in smaller communities throughout the United States to keep us safe from terrorism.

Although the following was written a few years back, security measures are still being taken, in ways we may not even be aware of, not only in Southwest Kansas, but in other communities nationwide as well.

 

HOMELAND SECURITY

 

"Sixty-eight percent of the world's beef is produced in a triangular area from Dodge City west to the Colorado border, south to Amarillo, Texas and back to Dodge," Stice said.  "This includes range cattle, feed lots, and the three Southwest Kansas packing plants -- National Beef, Excel and IBP -- which process process a combined total of one million head of livestock a day."

We Kansans have always felt relatively safe what with a wide-open prairie surrounding us and a half continent between us and terrorists and threats of like nature.  However, we may not be as safe as we’d like to think.

“Everyone is under the impression that if anything happens, it will happen in New York, not here,” said Mike Cox, Meade County Sheriff.  “That’s not necessarily so.  We, here in western Kansas, are vulnerable in a number of ways.  It’s possible for anything to happen at any time, and we all need to stay aware—and alert.”

This is also the message of Meade County Emergency Management Coordinator, Marvin Stice, who heads up a recently formed committee made up of law enforcement personnel, businesses and individuals whose goal is to address all areas of terrorist vulnerability in the county.

“Our office receives upgraded Emergency Sensitive Notices from the FBI Intelligence Office periodically—especially when a terrorist alert is changed,” Cox said.  “With the 2nd anniversary of the terrorist attacks approaching, we are prepared to take any precautionary measures necessary—whatever the threat might be.

“For example, when the two previous red alerts occurred—in October, 2001 and February 17 to May 29 of this year—we were notified to beef up security at various Meade County facilities,” he continued.  “We had deputies on high alert on an hourly basis; then after the level of the alert went to amber, we continued monitoring the facilities with periodic drive-bys.

“Immediately after the terrorist attack, we were notified to keep our eyes on airports—especially spray planes which might be confiscated and used to spray toxic chemicals over towns,” he added.  “Since this is still considered a threat, we check the airport on an ongoing basis.”

“We work closely with county law enforcement officials as well as the KBI,” said Craig Stratton, who operates a crop dusting service out of the Meade airport. “Agents of the KBI checked all crop dusters in the state early on to make sure that we each have all the planes we are supposed to have—and only the planes we’re supposed to have.  They want to know where all crop dusters are at all times.”

With the threat to food security high on the list of possible terrorist activity, the Meade County Emergency Management Coordinator, as well as area farmers and ranchers, are keeping a watchful eye on cattle, crops and grain elevators.

*“Bioterrorism has been a big issue ever since 9/11 and our beef industry is considered a very vulnerable target,” Stice said.  “Sixty-eight percent of the world’s beef is produced in a triangular area from Dodge City west to the Colorado border, south to Amarillo, Texas and back to Dodge.  This includes range cattle, feed lots and the three Southwest Kansas packing plants—National Beef, Excel and IBP—which process a combined total of one million head of livestock a day.

“One of the objectives of our team,” he continued, “is to take every precaution possible to safeguard these facilities, including any attempt to spread foreign animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease, anthrax, etc.”

“If we receive a warning that dangerous chemicals or toxins might be passing through the area, we are prepared to shut down our main highways (54, 160 and 23) immediately and begin inspecting carriers” Cox said.

“Although we’ve had no serious incidents of any kind in the county and, thus far, reports have proved to be false alarms, we intend to be on the ready in case there is an actual emergency,” Stice said.

“The entire Southwest Kansas Medical Community has been on the alert since the initial terrorist attacks,” said Mickey Thomas, Director of Meade District Hospital.  “We watch for any indication of unusual viruses, poisons, small pox, etc., and are carrying a heavier inventory of antibiotics and supplies.  We also have a task force of aids standing by if an emergency should occur.”

Although the date has not yet been confirmed, a consortium of 17 Southwest Kansas hospitals are making plans to conduct a bioterrorism mock disaster drill in October, he said.

With new diseases cropping up worldwide, we are always on the alert,” said Michele Correll, Director of the Meade County Health Department.  “As a bioterrorism measure, we are working with a six-county regional group, studying ways to identify and contain these diseases should they appear.”

Courthouses, government offices, schools, utility companies, etc. are notified during heightened alert.

“Everything changed on 9/11,” said Mark Goldsberry, Director of Lake Meade State Park.  “Although Lake Meade is less vulnerable than the larger state lakes, we are always on the alert for unusual or unexplained fish kills, bird die-offs, etc., as well as persons or activity of a suspicious nature.”

Goldsberry is a member of the Southwest Kansas Regional Foreign Animal Disease Committee (FAD) as well as the Meade County Emergency Planning Committee.

“The success of Homeland Security depends on the involvement of the common people,” he said.  “The cowboy riding the pens, the waitress in a restaurant, the gas station attendant—any of us—may see or hear something important to our security.  The bottom line is that we all remain aware and alert at all times.”

In addition to supporting local antiterrorism planning groups, Darrell Yarnall, Senior Resident Agent for the Garden City FBI office, suggests that citizens be aware of who their neighbors are and report any suspicious persons and/or activity to the FBI or to their local law enforcement officials.

“We are concerned most about people, fitting the terrorist profile, who might move into the area and assume a new identity, using this as a base to carry on terrorist activity,” he said.                                                                                         

Dodge City Daily Globe 8/29/03

*All statistics apply to 2003

Although this article was published in 1903, Marvin Stice, former Meade County Emergency Management Coordinator, has since informed us that agencies continue to remain alert for possible terrorist’s threats.  Certain information in the article might also apply to other counties, states, etc.  (Marvin Stice resigned as Coordinator in 2010).




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