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EMA ready to act

The U.S. war effort with Iraq is now beginning to hit its stride, with U.S military troops and officials having stepped up its air and ground campaigns on Friday afternoon.

In Covington County, residents continue to basically live their lives as normal, although many are no doubt being transfixed by the images they are seeing on televisions in their homes or places of work.

According to Jennifer Warthen of the Covington County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), things are also proceeding as normal with the agency, although the war developments are certainly being monitored carefully and employees with the agency are ready for any action that is deemed necessary.

"Right now we are just kind of on stand-by and waiting to see if we need to do something, and if we need to take any emergency procedures, and any directives such as that would come from the Alabama EMA," said Warthen.

In the case that any type of increased measures were ordered, Warthen said the main things which would be affected regarding the Covington County EMA would involve staffing.

"Of course if the state were to order anything new, the EMA would be activated," said Warthen. "We would have various officials at our communications center and our staff would likely be increased."

Like many people, Warthen has found it difficult to pull herself away from the continuous war coverage on many networks.

"Oh yes, it is definitely difficult (to focus on work duties with the distraction of the war coverage) and the television is turned up and you're wanting to know what is happening," said Warthen. "We are keeping up with what is happening, though, and staying alert and hoping that no one gets hurt."

Covington County Commission Chairman Greg White said he has discussed the current situation with local officials, and feels that the county has a good plan of security in place.

"I have discussed the situation with Sheriff (Anthony) Clark, and he said his force is prepared to full alert if anything out there seems out of place or is not appropriate. I am fully confident that his department has everything in order and is prepared if any increased security measures need to be taken."

White said he also encourages county residents to contact the Sheriff's Department or their local police department if they see or encounter they suspect is not normal.

As far as the war itself is concerned, White said he is also following the current developments in a steady if not obsessive manner.

"I am absolutely following the war coverage and I have a heightened interest in what is happening," said White. "I do not have cable TV at my home so I am not getting the 24-hour coverage, but the regular networks are covering very extensively. I do not have a television at work, though, so I am not letting (the coverage) distract me from my daily routine or job duties. I watch a lot of public TV to find out what is going on and I think some people can absolutely watch too much of it."

Other key areas in the state which are receiving additional protection from possible terrorism include the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, the Fort McClellan Army Deposit in Anniston and in Mobile at various chemical plants.

Riley has activated 128 national guardsmen to guard airports in the state's four largest cities, nuclear power plants and other key sites.