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YOUNGSTOWN Forum looks at security



Published: Thu, January 24, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The state's security task force conducted a forum in Youngstown today.

By RON COLE

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- When terrorists struck the United States on Sept. 11, VonRoll WTI in East Liverpool jumped into action.

The company, which operates a hazardous waste incinerator, beefed up security around the perimeter of its plant.

It began checking and documenting the licenses of truck drivers entering the facility.

It also is setting up a separate facility to handle mail coming to the company.

But you can never do too much, said Karen Riter, WTI safety group manager.

That's why Riter joined about 75 other Youngstown-area business safety officers and law enforcement officials at Youngstown State University this morning for a briefing from the State of Ohio Security Task Force.

"I want to find out if there's any additional steps we need to take to make our plant as secure as possible," Riter said.

The task force, chaired by Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor, was in Youngstown today as part of a series of 10 forums to help outline what the state is doing to respond to the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

Desired results: The forums will help Ohio businesses identify state and local resources, increase awareness of security factors and safety needs, and coordinate efforts with law enforcement and government.

The task force was in Columbus and Chillicothe on Wednesday and will go to Dayton and Cincinnati on Friday. The forums will conclude Tuesday in Marietta.

O'Connor was in Washington, D.C., this morning meeting with President Bush and Tom Ridge, federal homeland security director, and did not attend the briefing in Youngstown.

In a videotaped message, O'Connor said the task force has made great strides since Sept. 11 in raising awareness and preparedness in Ohio in the event of a terrorist attack.

On the agenda: Speaking at the forum were Dr. J. Nick Baird, director of the Ohio Department of Health; Dale Shipley, executive director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency; and Maj. Gen. John Smith, the state's adjutant general.

Baird said that when he became the head of the health department 21/2 years ago, few people knew or cared what the department did.

"Sept. 11 changed all of that," he said.

He said the department is focusing on increasing the state's capacity to deal with biological terrorism such as the anthrax scares that followed the September attacks.

"Many lessons have been learned over the last few months, but I think what is clear is that the threat is real," Baird said. "I think we've also figured out that we aren't powerless."

Among those that also attended were representatives from Ameritech, RMI Titanium Co., Kent State University, St. Elizabeth Health Center, Home Savings & amp; Loan Co., Ashtabula City Schools, as well as several officials from area police and fire departments.

cole@vindy.com




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