Alaska deemed likely safe from terrorist attack

Posted: Tuesday, July 09, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska isn't fully prepared for terrorist attacks, but the state will probably never see a major hit, according to Maj. Gen. Phillip Oates, head of Alaska National Guard and the state's emergency preparedness division.

The private sector has an important role to play in emergency prevention and response, Oates said Monday.

Oates said the threat of a terrorist attack is real, but added that considerable federal resources have been marshaled to improve security.

No nation is wealthy enough to be fully prepared, Oates said at an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The idea is to be as prepared as possible, prioritizing where to put limited resources and striking a balance between safety and economics, security and liberty.

For example, Oates said, the entire 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline can't be protected. But the most vulnerable spots can be protected and repair plans can be developed for exposed areas.

Oates encouraged businesses to adopt a similar strategy, noting that 90 percent of critical infrastructure -- from hospitals to telecommunications to cargo transportation -- is privately owned.

To help the government work with businesses, the state will add a new deputy commissioner under Oates in the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Oates said the position will link different sides of the security balancing act:

-- The financial sector might have insights on electronic security.

-- Hospitals and pharmacies, not the government, will hold medical stockpiles.

-- Alaska businesses have the opportunity to apply for federal grants and contracts related to homeland security.

-- Cargo entering the Port of Anchorage must be examined to some extent but if security were too tight, the strain might close some businesses, Oates said.

''You could virtually shut down U.S. commerce if you decided the contents of every container needed to be visually inspected,'' said Eric Britten, spokesman for shipping company CSX Lines and master of ceremonies for the Chamber luncheon.



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