In the wake of last year's terrorist attacks, even remote communities like the Kenai Peninsula are receiving visits from officials charged with homeland security. Last week, General Korenek, Commander of the Alaska Army National Guard, accompanied by Jim Harris, Recovery Manager for the Alaska Division of Emergency Services, addressed the first meeting of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce in 2002.
"I don't think we took ourselves to task in our overall scrutiny of all our procedures after the Okalahoma City bombing. When you have someone within your own country that has the ability to do those type of things, it's not a great stretch to realize that people who are not greatly enamored with us might take advantage of the situation," said Harris discussing how the events of 2001 will forever change the American lifestyle.
"We have lived in a society where our ability to move around has been somewhat taken for granted and we have lacked somewhat the vigilance that we need in paying attention to our fellow citizens. Nine eleven has brought our country together in a way that has been unprecedented since WWII. Now we are each looking at each other to see how we can help one another, and that is one of the biggest changes," added Harris.
From an emergency preparedness point of view Harris said we need to look at developing partnerships across the spectrum of local, state, community agencies and even family preparedness to integrate us fully as possible in the event of a major event. "It's time to dust off those plans and renew those friendships and partnerships and challenge one another in making logical realistic decisions about preparedness and enforcing our local jurisdictions," said Harris, who was dispatched to ground zero in New York last September.
"Getting over the feelings of the fact that such an attack actually happened in our homeland created a mental state, not only for New Yorkers, but for all Americans that is going to take some time to recover from," answered Harris when asked what he would remember most about seeing ground zero for the first time. According to General Korenek of the National Guard, the greatest risk for the people of the Kenai Peninsula remains natural disasters such as floods, volcanoes and earthquakes.
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