Saturday, February 15, 2003

Ridge coming to Hamilton Co.

Will announce anti-terror initiative

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The head of the Department of Homeland Security is expected to come to Cincinnati next week to unveil a national initiative to encourage citizens to prepare for possible war.

Secretary Tom Ridge plans to meet Wednesday with Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, the county emergency management director and others before speaking at a larger event, Portune said Friday. Details of the visit aren't final.

"They're presenting their citizen preparedness campaign," Portune said. "It's a very big deal."

Homeland Security officials would neither confirm nor deny the trip. However, Ridge said Friday afternoon that he will be announcing a new initiative Wednesday called the Ready Campaign.

"While your government is doing everything it can to prevent an attack, citizens also should know what to do because, in the end, being prepared, knowing what to do can and will save lives," he said.

The terrorist threat level was raised from elevated (yellow) to high (orange) on Feb. 7.

Portune said he will take the chance to bend Ridge's ear about local governments' need for money to be better prepared.

"So much of what's happening at the national level has a big impact on first responders at the local level," he said. "There's a great need there."

Ridge was last in Cincinnati a year ago, and Steve Ashbrock, commissioner of the Hamilton County Urban Search and Rescue Team, said Friday he welcomes both the return visit and the new message.

Ridge is the first secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

"We're interested to hear what the secretary has to say," Ashbrock said. "Because there's limited resources, there's only so much help to go around in X amount of time. Anything citizens can learn to do on their own helps emergency forces tremendously."


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