Reach of `Shield’ extends to area |

Reach of `Shield’ extends to area

Greg Masse
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Despite the Roaring Fork Valley’s relatively remote mountain location and smallish population, Operation Liberty Shield still affects life here.

Operation Liberty Shield is a national plan recently put forth by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with the goal of repelling any attack on America by terrorists during the war with Iraq. The Homeland Security Advisory System was raised to “orange,” or high, on Monday when President Bush gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to disarm or leave the country.

According to Homeland Security director Tom Ridge during a news conference Tuesday, “The FBI, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security are working closely to identify and stop those who would facilitate terrorist activity through fund-raising, logistical support and recruitment.”

Closer to home, Garfield County emergency management officer Guy Meyer said information and awareness are key in spotting potential terrorists.

“We’ve been getting information since they started,” Meyer said of the military attack on Iraq.

Meyer has been telling county employees to be vigilant about the goings-on around them, both on and off the job.

“Who’s in the courthouse and things like that,” he said. “We, as a community, are encouraging people to have heightened awareness on a daily basis.”

As for the major infrastructure at places like Ruedi Dam above Basalt, Meyer said the federal government has stepped up its security and patrols.

“There’s measures being taken,” he said.

Meyer’s office also has passed out about 60 hazardous materials kits to local emergency personnel. The kits include hazardous material suits, masks and chemical detection kits.

“I’ve been distributing them to the Glenwood Springs and Carbondale fire departments and the (Garfield County) sheriff’s office,” Meyer said.

For everyone else in the community, Meyer had some simpler advice.

“I would encourage any citizen to have a three-day supply,” he said of food and water. “I don’t know if we have to get carried away with duct tape.”

Glenwood Springs fire chief Mike Piper said his department is “always on alert.”

“We get updates and level changes from the federal government,” he said. “You have to look around and be vigilant for everything.”

The department, he said, is always working on sharpening its reactions to hazardous material incidents, including evacuation measures and decontamination procedures.

“With hazardous materials, it really falls, by default, to these biological, weapons of mass destruction things,” he said. “Some of these gassing agents we’re worried about with the war upon us, it’s literally hazardous materials. . We’re doing our best in trying to get ready for hazardous material incidents without getting too exotic.”

One of the main routes to Glenwood Springs is along the railroad line used by Amtrak and Union Pacific. But like people across the nation, railroad employees are constantly on the lookout for suspicious activity.

Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said all railroad companies have been “on alert” since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington.

In fact, railroad dispatchers have reported an increase in the average number of calls for suspicious activity since the terrorist attacks, an increase that’s stayed steady, he said.

“They’re looking for literally anything and everything,” he said.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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