Judkins spreading the preparedness message

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 17, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

When President Bush moved the nation’s threat condition from yellow to orange on Feb. 7, it created a unique event; people rushed to stores everywhere to purchase duct tape and plastic to prepare for a terrorist attack. Locally, Suffolk’s Emergency Management Coordinator (EMC) Captain Jim Judkins is also preparing for such an event by making sure that every measure possible is being taken to insure the safety of citizens of Suffolk.

Capt. Judkins explained that moving to a high security risk status means there is a higher risk of terrorist attacks against the country. Orange is just one step down from red, the color to indicate that the nation is at a severe security risk.

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&uot;The greater the risk of a terrorist attack, the higher the threat condition,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;Risk includes both the probability of an attack occurring and its potential gravity.&uot;

As the EMC for the City of Suffolk, the captain maintains constant contact with agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

Virginia’s Asst. to the Governor for Commonwealth, John Hager, said ccredible intelligence indicates that there is a high risk of a local terrorist attack but a specific target has not been identified.

Judkins noted that he communicates constantly with Virginia Dept. of Emergency Management. He noted that while precautionary measures being initiated in the City of Suffolk are almost invisible, they are in place.

&uot;You may notice more law enforcement in the streets and in some areas where we didn’t see them before,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;Most of these measures have been in place since 9-11, including the newly erected fences around critical places like Suffolk’s water treatment plant and the one at Lipton Tea. People do not have the free roam or ability to go in places like we used to do. Just like the delays at the airport. It’s a slight bit of inconvenience but most people realize it’s for their ultimate safety. We’re following the guidelines laid out in the Commonwealth’s terrorism plan.&uot;

He added that doors that have always been open to the people of Suffolk are now locked to prevent unknown persons from entering. For instance, the Godwin Courts Building and other places that once welcomed visitors are more highly protected than ever by sheriff’s deputies and metal detectors.

Judkins and others like him obtain their information from federal agencies under the direction of the Homeland Security Advisory System. That system was designed to provide a comprehensive means to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist acts to federal, state, and local authorities and to the American people.

&uot;That system provides warnings in the form of a set of graduated &uot;Threat Conditions&uot; that increase as the risk of the threat increases,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;At each threat condition, federal departments and agencies would implement a corresponding set of &uot;Protective Measures&uot; to further reduce vulnerability or increase response capability during a period of heightened alert.&uot;

Judkins said that his office has been inundated with telephone calls with concern for the present danger in this country. He said many people in Suffolk worry because of the city’s proximity to Norfolk Naval Station and Langley Air Force Base.

There are measures people can take to prepare for terrorist attack, he said.

&uot;First of all, you can review preparedness measures, including evacuation and sheltering, for potential terrorist actions,&uot; he added. &uot;Stay at home as much as possible and avoid high profile or symbolic locations, and extreme caution when traveling is a must.&uot;

According to Judkins, terrorism can strike in many forms including something as simple as a threat.

&uot;Many times, terrorists use threats to create fear among the people… to try to convince them that their government is powerless to prevent terrorism,&uot; said the captain. &uot;They also want immediate publicity for their causes. I would guess there isn’t a person in the civilized world who doesn’t know the name Osama bin Laden.&uot;

Judkins also said there are a few simple precautions that could help protect against an attack. He said everyone should be alert, reporting any unusual or suspicious activity to 911. He added that everyone is urged to promptly report unusual behavior, suspicious packages and strange devices to police or fire personnel. He also offered suggestions that everyone should put into memory.

&uot;In the event of a chemical or biological weapon attack near you, authorities will instruct you on the best course of action,&uot; he explained. &uot;This advice may be to evacuate the area immediately, to seek shelter at a designated location, or to take immediate shelter where you are and seal the premises as tightly as possible with duct tape and plastic as suggested by Homeland Defense.&uot;

Most biological agents are difficult to grow and their length of their viability is questionable. Many break down quickly when exposed to sunlight and other environmental factors, he said, while others such as anthrax spores are very long lived.&uot;

Judkins added that it’s best to stay tuned to a battery operated radio in the event of any type of emergency whether a hurricane, flood, or terrorist attack.

&uot;Listen for instructions and information about community services and listen for local, state and federal governments and other organizations on how they will assist you in the event of an emergency,&uot; said Judkins. &uot;Also, stay away from any area marked &uot;radiation hazard’ or Hazmat.&uot;

For current Virginia-specific preparedness information, you can check out the &uot;Terrorist Toolkit&uot; on the VA-Emergency.com site. Also, you may want to go to the Commonwealth Preparedness website where Hager offers sound advice at www.commonwealthpreparedness.state.va.us, or call 804-225-3826, or Fax: 804-225-3882. Judkins is available to make presentations on terrorism by calling 923-2110.