Archive for Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Local officials urge calm and caution in wake of attacks

October 10, 2001

At the Fort Leavenworth military base, security is tight and is going to stay that way. The Wyandotte and Leavenworth county courthouses are checking visitors at the door and local post offices are keeping an eye out for suspicious packages.

Fear of terrorist attacks has had a ripple effect throughout Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties since America retaliated for the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

At the Leavenworth and Wyandotte county health departments officials are fielding inquiries about the anthrax bacteria that is being investigated in Florida, where one man died after being infected.

"There has been an influx of calls every day," said Gay Hall, Wyandotte County Health Department community health director. "Most of the people that call in want to get the antibiotic but we don't have it. The only people that have it is the Army."

Because of the concerns about terrorists using biological weapons, officials at the Leavenworth County Health Department are trying to be a source of objective information.

"We are trying to calm nerves and make people more aware," said Frankie Jackson Leavenworth County Health Department director. "Some of the symptoms associated with (anthrax) are very common with upper respiratory infections."

Symptoms associated with the anthrax include muscle aches, fever and fatigue. The virus, normally treatable with antibiotics, is not communicable and must be inhaled, Hall said.

"It is not communicable from person to person," she said. "You have to have contact with it. If someone is exposed they need to see a doctor right away."

Although the chance of anthrax hitting Leavenworth or Wyandotte counties seems remote, Jackson said, health departments across the country are trying to keep people informed.

"We need to make sure they are getting the right information and not something that isn't true," she said.

"The one thing we don't want is a mass panic."

While the nation begins its battle against terrorism, security is the main focus.

At Fort Leavenworth, public information officer Janet Wray said the base remains on high alert and access is strictly controlled just as it was shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"To gain entrance, you have to have a legitimate reason to be there," Wray said. "You are going to be questioned, you're vehicle is subject to search and you have to have a photo ID."

Visitors who are allowed on the base are carefully screened, she said.

In addition, the base has brought in more military police.

Security also is tighter at the Leavenworth County Courthouse, the Justice Center and all other county-owned buildings.

County Emergency Management Coordinator Chuck Magaha said the county is getting more serious about security.

"On Sept. 11, the county became reactive to a situation that we should have been proactive to several years ago," Magaha said.

Security measures at the courthouse include cameras stationed outside buildings, controlled deliveries to buildings, and employee identification tags. The precautions also prohibit unauthorized vehicles from parking close to county buildings.

"If you can keep vehicles 75 feet away from the building your vulnerability decreases by 80 percent," Magaha said.

While the threat of an actual terrorist attack in Leavenworth County remains small, Magaha said, the county is more worried about copycat acts of terrorism by distraught individuals.

"We are taking steps to feel more comfortable with the situation," Magaha said. "Terrorists want us to be scared, but America needs to be able to go along with business as usual."

The Wyandotte County Courthouse has maintained a business-as usual approach when dealing with building security.

Courthouse officials said an additional officer has been put on duty at the building and metal detectors are present at the entrance.

Local post offices have also taken precautions when dealing with suspicious packages.

Basehor Postmaster Joe Rundus said employees are always checking packages.

"The security is strict but it always has been and it is especially strict for international packages," she said.

Bonner Springs Postmaster Gene Swisher said security measures have been taken for the back entrance of the building but security remains largely the same.

"Nothing has really changed and packages are always checked," he said. "It has been that way for post offices ever since the Unabomber."

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