Staying alert locally in the face of the threat of terrorism

Charlie Grayburn, emergency operations manager with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, was the guest speaker at the Tyrone Rotary Club meeting on Monday evening. Grayburn spoke of the history of terrorism and the local spots that could be terrorist threats.
He compared what Virginia has done as far as investing in homeland security goes compared to Pennsylvania.
“The Commonwealth of Virginia has invested millions of dollars in putting together informational leafletting, and also making themselves available to talk to the media. I can tell you that the Virginia secretary of homeland security is on the news at least two or three times a week. I just received in the mail last week a 10 page magazine on what I as a citizen can do to prepare for a national emergency. This same information is available to you. I have talked with individuals from PEMA (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency), I have talked with people from the governor’s office, and you can go to the PEMA website and pull the information you would need.”
The items you would need to prepare for a national emergency are common sense items. Flashlights, food, water and the list of necessities are on the PEMA website.
“I spent about $25 dollars and I had my little kit together and it sits in my house,” said Grayburn.
There is more than food, water and a flashlight you need to place in your emergency preparedness kit.
“You should include items for household and financial preparation,” said Grayburn. “That would include any wills, trusts, insurance paperwork. Know where it is. Make sure you are able to access it.”
Many people look at taking care of the home, but often overlook an emergency plan for their business.
“Remember your employees are going to look to you for guidance,” Grayburn told the Rotarians. “They are going to want to know, what is the policy if something happens. What if something happens in Washington? If we go home tonight and CNN is reporting that a device has gone off in Washington, are we supposed to show up for work tomorrow? Who am I supposed to call? Where am I supposed to get information? Spend 10 or 15 minutes and put together an emergency plan for your business. I can tell you that every business in Washington D.C. has an emergency plan.”
Grayburn took questions from the Rotarians.
The first question for Grayburn was: “In the event of a nuclear bomb, are tablets of iodine worth having on hand?”
“There has been some discussion about distributing that to the general population,” said Grayburn. “There are two areas of concern. If you distribute that kind of stuff out to the general populous, will they have the guidelines to use it and is there enough available? You need to distribute 275 million doses. In order to manufacture that kind of quantity you are looking at 12-18 months.”
The federal government is very concerned about the possibility of a dirty bomb being detonated.
“Your national leadership is very concerned about this issue,” said Grayburn. “There is not one protectee of the U.S. government that doesn’t travel without a chemical, biological or nuclear decontamination kit. I handle between three and four dignitary movements a day. Everyone of them is carrying one of those kits. There are agents who are traveling with them who are instructed on how to use the kits. There are contingency plans put into place in the event of an emergency. One cabinet member is in a secret location at all times. The president and vice president are rarely in the same location at the same time.”
Scott Hiller spoke briefly about the threat of surface to air missiles to civilian airplanes.
“When we first went into Afghanistan, the CIA was authorized to offer $100,000 for each stinger missile that was recovered,” said Grayburn. “That is how much of a threat is out there. The government estimates that anywhere between 500 and 1,000 of these stinger missiles are missing. It only takes between eight and ten hours of training and you can fire a stinger missile proficient enough to take out a U.S. jetliner.”
Grayburn said that the House of Representatives tried to go against recommendations of the Department of Homeland Security.
“There are representatives from every state who everyday who travel to the U.S. Capitol who up until two months ago could park their cars on the grounds of the capitol, who tried to pass a special resolution in the congress to override the recommendation of Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. The vote did not pass, said Grayburn.”
Rep. Jerry Stern asked Grayburn how tough it is to secure Dulles Airport with a residential neighborhood nearby?
“I spent three days last week flying around the airport in a helicopter with the Secret Service and the FBI, looking at different sites and housing communities,” said Grayburn. “The threat footprint around Dulles airport is huge. We handle about 80 percent of all international flights to Washington D.C. We have been identified as a target. Our threat posturing is about as high as it can go without closing the airport. We did a threat assessment and identified several sites. We have taken to try and lower the risks. We have brought in the National Guard. If we identify a building that has a perfect line of sight to one of the runways and we know for example that the Israeli prime minister is coming, we will have National Guard personnel on top of that building.”
Mayor Pat Stoner asked Grayburn how local communities are to step up homeland security for the general population when the funding just isn’t there?
“Every governor has echoed your comments,” Grayburn told the mayor. “I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with the governors and the president in which the governors brought up that very point. Mayors are bringing up that point. I know the states are trying to get more federal money for their homeland security. Until that money is released by the federal government, it is a uphill battle.”
One of the members asked if counter-terrorism efforts have been effective?
Grayburn referred to a sign that hangs above the exit at CIA headquarters as how counter-terrorism efforts are working. The sign reads, “No one will ever know about our good days but everyone will hear about our bad days.”
“There isn’t a day goes by that the agency isn’t moving assets around in the War on Terror,” said Grayburn. “The transfer between the agencies of recovered terrorists takes place at Dulles. There has been upwards of 50 prisoner transfers since the first of the year, and that should tell you something right there.”
Grayburn concluded by saying the threats are real and every step is being taken on the federal level to secure the homeland. He did add that every set of eyes and ears are a help to stopping terrorism at home.