State is at risk for attacks, report says
By MIKE BARBER
Date: January 10, 2004
After taking stock of everything behind the state's 325-mile border with Canada and 157 miles of coastline, Washington's new homeland security strategic plan calls the state "extremely susceptible to terrorist activities."
"Many of Washington's communities are vulnerable to terrorist incidents and several have highly visible and vulnerable targets. These critical facilities, sites, systems and special events are often located near routes with high transportation access," says the report unveiled by Gov. Gary Locke yesterday at Camp Murray.
Calling the plan one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the nation, Locke said it was created in part because federal homeland security funds mostly are aimed at training and equipping emergency responders, not at identifying security gaps, capabilities and strategic initiatives.
The strategic plan, the result of a collaborative effort involving government and the private sector, is the "clear, overarching strategy" the state has needed to avoid rushing off in all directions to address terrorism, risking waste and redundancy, he said.
State officials also emphasized that the plan is intended to be shared with Washington's citizens, considered valued partners in the anti-terror matrix.
"It is a very public road map. ... It is important that our goals and strategies be open," said Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, the state's National Guard commander.
The plan says Washington has "unique challenges and key potential targets that contribute to the state's vulnerability."
Those challenges include not only the obvious -- securing airports, seaports, cultural centers, ferries, hydroelectric dams and nuclear storage areas -- but also congested traffic, 10 million tourists a year, complex waterways and prominent businesses, the plan says.
The study also identifies some of the state's critical infrastructure that terrorists could target: the agriculture and food industry, which accounts for 13 percent of gross state product^; banks and financial institutions, which total $102 billion in statewide assets^; and chemicals and hazardous materials.
About 3,500 business in 2002 reported 14,766 kinds of chemicals and products stored at 24,915 sites here. Washington houses about 7,000 hazardous-waste generators that produce 255 million pounds of hazardous waste a year, the report notes.
Lowenberg said action plans aimed at closing "gaps and seams" noted in the plan are being formed. An extensive appendix to the plan outlines a list of needs that include:
Becoming partners with the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to improve northern border security.
Identifying National Guard troops who also are emergency responders in civilian life.
Preventing, in both the public and private sectors, inadvertent sharing of information that could benefit terrorists.
Building homeland security issues into school safety planning and operations.
Implementing the Washington Computer Incident Response Center, a cooperative effort among state agencies to defend the state's computer systems against cyberterrorism. Washington's homeland security strategic plan is available on the state emergency management division's Web site at http://emd.wa. gov, then click on "homeland security."
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