Sheriff says Summit not at high risk for terror attack
SUMMIT COUNTY – The Feb. 7 announcement that the country’s terror threat level has been elevated to “High/Orange” has set many people on edge. And not just in the city. Summit County Sheriff Joe Morales said he’s received calls from some worried county residents.
Morales doesn’t recommend people turn a blind eye to the elevated terrorist threat level, but he and other law enforcement officers believe Summit County is not at high risk for any such attacks.
“I think we’re probably below the radar as far as target probability,” he said. “But people need to stay vigilant, focus on staying informed and listening to what’s going on in the news.
“The big message we’re trying to get out is to encourage folks to have home plans – their own emergency plan – not only for terrorism, but if there’s a wildland fire, a power outage.”
The county has emergency preparedness plans for wildfires, evacuations of high-density residential areas, chemical spills such as a truck accident during which hazardous material is released, and notification in the event of something as catastrophic as the reservoir bursting.
“We’re in constant communication countywide with the law enforcement, fire and office of emergency management. We continue to train and develop countywide plans to deal with all risks.
“We’re going to have a long, dry summer ahead, so if we have a wildland fire again, we want to have all our plans in place in case we have to deal with evacuating a neighborhood.”
Like Morales, Silverthorne Police Chief John Patterson believes a natural disaster or accident is far more likely than a terrorist attack.
“I’ve talked to the FBI in Denver,” he said. “There’s no specific threat information related to us up here. I don’t think we’re in any imminent danger of a chemical attack. If there is that sort of thing, it will probably be a turned-over truck on I-70.
“Probably a bigger danger to us is a haz-mat spill, major winter storm or wildland fire. Folks need to be thinking, if something was to happen, how would we respond, where would we go?”
It’s also wise to be aware of any potential danger, Morales said.
“Keep an eye on what’s going on in the neighborhood,” he said. “The citizens are our eyes and ears. If you see any type of suspicious activity, let somebody know.”
At least a few locals have taken seriously a recent White House document that recommends steps to take to prepare for terrorist attacks. Among the recommendations: buying duct tape and plastic sheets to block off doors, windows and vents and keep out air that may contain hazardous chemical or biological agents.
“I’ve seen a little bit of that,” said Bill Eaton, manager of Sanders True Value in Silverthorne. “One particular gal came in and said that’s exactly why (she was buying plastic and duct tape). She had seen a news broadcast and thought it was a good idea.
“Personally, I don’t think it would work. In my opinion, you’re making a worse trap than if you were trying to get the fresh air. But we do have all the plastic and duct tape they want.”
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