State Officials Meet To Prepare For Future Terroristic Attacks

Associated Press Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Public safety officials from seven states and the nation's capital will meet in West Virginia this week to fine-tune such logistics as keeping cars moving and cell phones working during a catastrophic event.

The two-day Regional Evacuation Homeland Security Conference at Shoeshoe Mountain resort is the second such meeting since the states agreed 10 months ago to formally work together on a regional disaster plan.

"We want to bring to light the enormity of the problem and look at ways we can cut it down into manageable segments," state Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary James Spears said Tuesday. "If you look at trying to solve it in one big bite, it's unchewable. You've got to break it down into chewable segments. That's what we're trying to do here."

Discussions will include evacuation planning, management and response; high-tech communications, and media impact, among other

Homeland security advisers in the region have said the most likely target of a chemical, biological or radiological terrorist attack would be on the nation's capital and there would be the potential of evacuating 7 million people from the Washington-Baltimore area.

Last year's conference at Canaan Valley Resort in Davis was a starting point. Representatives of West Virginia, the District of Columbia, Virginia, Ohio, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and federal agencies attended.

A major part of the ongoing dialogue is coordination and communication. Spears used traffic flow as an example.

If the pattern along an interstate highway were to be changed to move only in one direction, that would have to be coordinated with adjacent states.

If not, "all of a sudden you have a massive amount of traffic coming to a dead stop or running into the opposite direction," he said.

West Virginia officials plan to brief the conference on progress being made on building multimillion-dollar communication towers throughout the state.

The project began in Harrison, Monongalia and Marion counties with federal grants earlier this decade and is being expanded statewide. It will use microwave digital communications to enable people in many locations to talk simultaneously with the same clarity as if they were standing in the same room.

"You have to have the ability to communicate to a number of people simultaneously," Spears said. "The police officer has to be able to speak to the fireman. The fireman has to be able to speak to the hospital. You don't have to have all the different (phone) numbers."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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