Monday, October 08, 2001

Tristate on heightened alert




By James Pilcher and Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Police and security officials at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport Sunday went to a heightened state of alert following the bombing raids on Afghanistan.

        Security also remained tight at area utilities, military and National Guard posts, at the former Fernald uranium processing plant in Crosby Township — all feared to be potential targets for more terror attacks or retaliation.

        In Hebron, there were additional police at every screening checkpoint and more scrutiny at the curbs next to airport terminals. Still, it was business as usual at the nation's 16th busiest airport.

        Delta Air Lines' Terminal 3 was bustling with passengers Sunday afternoon and had three fairly long lines to get through security.

        “As far as we're concerned, there have been no operational changes, and we're still getting people where they need to go,” said Tom Donahue, spokesman for Delta, which operates its second-largest hub locally.

        But the military action did have its consequences here.

        Airport spokesman Ted Bushelman said a Boone County police officer was stationed at every screening checkpoint Sunday following the news that U.S. and British forces had begun bombing Afghanistan to fight back at terrorism.

        The new police presence is in addition to Kentucky National Guard personnel, who were placed at screening checkpoints Friday.

        “The airport police are behind the scenes doing things the public can't see and that I can't talk about,” Mr. Bushelman said.

        He said the airport was taking further cautions but refused to give specifics.

        In addition, airport police were keeping an even closer eye on unaccompanied cars next to the terminal, and while curb-side check-in continued, police were making sure someone stayed with the car or that the car didn't wait at the curb too long.

        Mr. Donahue and Comair spokeswoman Meghan Glynn said there had been no immediate orders from the Federal Aviation Administration to tighten security further than it already has in response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

        Security continued to be a top priority for local utility companies as well, something that began with the Sept. 11 attacks. Information gleaned during the post-Sept. 11 investigation suggested that U.S. utilities could be terrorist targets.

        “We have been on heightened security since Sept. 11, and we continue in that mode,” said Cinergy spokesman Steve Brash. “I can't discuss any specifics, but the security includes all of our facilities.

        Cincinnati Water Works director David Rager echoed Mr. Brash's comment about a higher level of security since Sept. 11.

        “We have in-house security, and we're reinforcing all our procedures,” he said.

        “We serve about a 400-square-mile area, with a number of pump stations and reservoirs in addition to the purification facilities,” Mr. Rager said. “We have armed security personnel, both inside and outside our facilities.”

        Jeanne Lopatto, spokeswoman for the Department of Energy, said Sunday that all DOE facilities — including the former Fernald uranium processing plant — were put on heightened level of security as a precaution Sunday afternoon.

        “We have designated levels of security. This is the same as we did after Sept. 11,” she said.

        Spokesmen for the Ohio National Guard and Kentucky National Guard said they continue to maintain increased security at all armories and bases, but would not discuss specifics.

        While the nation's action's did result in tighter security, the counterattack didn't to deter passengers.

        “I'm more nervous for my son who is in the military than I am for myself,” said Chris Steger, who was flying home to Omaha, Neb., after visiting her pregnant daughter and son-in-law in Milford.

        “The security is much better (than it was before the Sept. 11 attacks), and I have no problem flying,” Ms. Steger said.

        Still, many were nervous about the long-term implications of Sunday's actions, especially if there is some sort of retaliation.

        “I didn't know about our attacks until I landed here,” said Brint Martin, a college recruiter from Hampton, Va., who is visiting the area for a week.

        “I'm definitely a little worried about going back, if this thing draws out. But if I want to get home, I'm probably going to have to lfly.”

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