Officials discuss local threats

Local officials are asking citizens to be more aware of their surroundings, as Operation Iraqi Freedom continues overseas.

War has now been raging in Iraq for two weeks, increasing an already heightened concern for homeland security.

When it comes to preventing an incident of domestic terrorism, communication is key, said Lt. Larry Palmer of the Pelham Police Department.

&uot;Call your local authorities if you notice anything out of the ordinary,&uot; Palmer said. &uot;I don’t care if you call us 20 times a day. It’s better to call than not.&uot;

Palmer said to report anything illegal or suspicious.

He encourages citizens to be on the lookout for anything that &uot;doesn’t seem right&uot; such as someone taking pictures of facilities which are not particularly known as tourist attractions.

&uot;Be vigilant, be cautious and keep your eyes open,&uot; he said.

Raising public awareness is just one of the methods Pelham police are using to combat the threat of terrorism.

Department members have met several times to discuss potential threats and even purchased extra equipment to help prevent or prepare for possible attacks.

&uot;Basically we have identified potential targets and we have devoted special attention to those targets,&uot; Palmer said.

The Pelham Police Department put certain measures in place the first time the Homeland Security advisory level was raised to orange, or high, Palmer said.

The five level, color-coded advisory system was created by the post Sept. 11, 2001-created U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Pelham police have constantly operated under the assumption of high risk since the introduction of the system, despite several changes in the terrorism threat level during that time period.

While Palmer encouraged elevated awareness, he also stressed that individuals should continue their daily lives without becoming consumed by fear and panic.

&uot;I’m not going to run scared but we are going to take them serious,&uot; he said.

Don Greene, director of Shelby County’s Emergency Management Agency, also said county residents should &uot;go about business as normal&uot; but with increased awareness.

Greene said the agency remains at a state of readiness.

&uot;Right now, it is really more of a wait and see approach, although, we certainly have some plans on how we would handle certain situations should they occur,&uot; Greene said.

&uot;We must decide what type of incident might occur from this and how we can prepare.&uot;

Part of that preparedness includes being sure that communications between the EMA and local law enforcement offices remain open and smooth.

&uot;What we do is make sure our network is updated,&uot; said Capt. Chris Corbell of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. &uot;We will do some general things you would normally do in a crisis situation.

&uot;Basically what we are going to do is put together a major incident plan to be sure that we can maximize our resources.&uot;

Law enforcement and emergency personnel across the county agree that citizens should be &uot;a little extra aware&uot; of their surroundings and should report any suspicious or illegal activities to local authorities