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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

BV emergency pros share agri-terrorism concerns

Monday, August 4, 2003

Having the proper equipment to respond to agri-terrorism is a concern among area law enforcement, firefighters and first responders.

That was one of the messages heard yesterday at a meeting in Storm Lake with a staff member from Senator Tom Harkin's office.

A room full of county law enforcement, firefighters, first responders, elected officials and ag professionals met with Maureen Wilson, regional director for Harkin.

Harkin serves on the Homeland Security Subcommittee, and has had staff members meet with constituents in all 99 Iowa counties on the topic of homeland security.

"(Senator Harkin) intends to represent the concerns of the people of Iowa and wants to hear concerns and issues related to homeland security," Wilson said.

Those needs vary drastically from those on the frontlines of terrorism and for those in the Midwest.

"Rural areas are more concerned with agri-terrorism than with some other threats," Wilson said.

In fact, knowing what to plan for is an important part of local efforts, said Bob Christensen, emergency management coordinator for the county.

Discussing the five-level colored threat system for the nation, Christensen said there are a lack of guidelines for dealing with an increased threat level in rural areas.

"A red threat in New York doesn't mean a red threat in Iowa," he said.

With that, there are a number of issues facing counties and volunteer fire departments, including federal funding streams to boost local homeland security efforts as well as knowing on what preparedness areas to focus on in Northwest Iowa.

"The appropriate response changes depending on if you're looking at an explosion situation or a biological attack," Christensen said. "We need some guidelines."

However, some federal grants for equipment are very specific about what can and cannot be purchased with funding.

"You want something you'll utilize - not something that sits on a shelf for five years," Christensen said. "It would be nice to have some guidelines on equipment to purchase and whether it is relevant to the area."

Another issue discussed at yesterday's meeting was on grant requirements which mandate a grant recipient to purchase supplies or equipment from a specific company.

"It'd be nice to purchase that equipment locally," said County Supervisor Lorna Burnside.

The information collected from yesterday's meeting will be combined with other suggestions from throughout the state and reported to Harkin.

"Senator Harkin wants to make sure Iowa's concerns are represented on the subcommittee," Wilson said. "There's a lot of concern with manpower, training and equipment needs as well as dollars to fund that."

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