Thursday, February 13, 2003

Tristate doesn't seem too terrified

Terror alert brings ho-hum response

By Dan Horn, Dan Klepal and Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The nation may be on high alert for terror attacks this week, but concern remains low in the Tristate.

Stores have reported no rush on bottled water, batteries, canned goods, duct tape or other emergency supplies.

Businesses have done little to beef up security, saying they upgraded enough after the Sept. 11 attacks.

And government agencies have made mostly minor changes in security at public buildings and facilities.

Some say preparation for a possible attack is difficult because the warnings from federal authorities in Washington, D.C., have been so vague. Even the latest warnings, which Homeland Security officials described as "specific," did not include details about the most likely targets.

"It's a new area for all of us," said Don Maccarone, director of emergency management for Hamilton County. "We're used to dealing with known types of problems - a tornado or a chemical spill. These general types of threats are not well-defined."

The constant threat of terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks also may be a reason for the relatively low level of concern among Tristate residents and businesses.

Some businesses launched new security measures in the weeks and months after the attacks, and company officials think those measures remain sufficient.

"We feel we have every possible precaution in place to ensure the safety of our employees and our business," said Robyn Schroeder, spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble.

At Cinergy, spokesman Steve Brash said the company is confident it already has ample security, but it has "increased vigilance" and has passed along tips about safe travel and dangerous locations to employees.

Tristate residents seem to be taking a similar, low-key approach to the latest warnings.

At the Home Depot in Bridgetown, store manager Steve Blaunt said he briefed his department managers about the terror alert and the possibility of more customers purchasing some items.

But so far, Blaunt said, he's only noticed an increase of about 1 or 2 percent in sales of those items.

He and other store managers said there was far more concern - and many more purchases - when the nation was preparing for possible chaos on New Year's Day 2000. Back then, the worry was that computer systems would fail because they would not recognize the date change from 1999 to 2000.

"It's nothing like that so far," said Mike Karbowski, who manages a Sam's Club in Loveland.

Krishna Patel, of West Chester Township, said he was out buying batteries at Wal-Mart on Wednesday, but not because he was worried about a terrorist attack. "I need them for my TV remotes," Patel said. "I've heard (about the alerts) and I am concerned, but I don't feel the need to hoard anything just yet."

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