Local agents urge security awareness

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 22, 2003

The rumblings of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States continue to be felt, as the nation still monitors the possibility of additional terrorist-related incidents.

On Tuesday, President Bush raised the nation's threat level to orange, or high, which represents the second highest state of alert in the color coded warning system.

Bush raised the level following a discussion with his administration's Homeland Security Council about intelligence reports suggesting al Queda might attack the U.S. in the near future.

The raising and lowering of the threat level has been a constant activity since the Sept. 11 attacks and citizens on a local level may wonder what the threat levels mean for them and if they need to take precautions to protect themselves against a possible attack.

Andalusia Police Chief Wilbur Williams Jr. said he feels that some citizens may not be fully aware of the continuous threat which still exists following the traumatic events of 2001, and said the philosophy of his department has been to keep people aware without instilling a sense of panic.

"You would be surprised at the people who would know what you are talking about (when bringing up the subject of the elevated threat levels), but (the threat of additional attacks) is not going to go away and it will be with us the rest of our lives," said Williams. "Our department remains cautious but we are not wanting to scare people to death."

Williams noted that Americans were likely on alert mode for a period of 90 days following the terrorist attacks, but said it is not uncommon for complacency to sink in following a long period of no terrorist activity or any type of emergency occurrence.

"People do get complacent when there is a long time without anything happening,

and it has been about 20 months since the Sept. 11 attacks, but people should never get to thinking that something cannot happen," said Williams. "It could happen right here in Andalusia."

Kristi Stamnes of the Covington County Emergency Management Agency/E-911 said her agency is always prepared to inform emergency officials in the event of an elevated threat risk.

"Basically when we receive word (about the increased risk), we notify the police, fire and rescue departments," said Stamnes. "We urge our agencies (in Covington County)

and citizens to be cautious about any suspicious activity. We have not had any reports about any suspicious activity in the county, and hopefully we will not anytime soon."