26 April 2006: Citizens & Disasters

Citizens can step up in disasters

Had former Colorado Senator Gary Hart been president in 2001, it is not likely he would have ignored the Presidential Daily Briefing “Bin Laden Determined to Strike the US,” presented to the President five weeks prior to the September 11 attacks. The reason I make that assertion is Hart, along with former Senator Warren Rudman (R-VT), conducted an authoritative study presciently warning of the use of terror against the US. Accordingly, when one’s insight is affirmed in such a telling way, it gives what he subsequently says on the topic more credence. So, when Gary Hart said at the April 11 ACLU-sponsored Town Hall meeting, “Our Freedoms at Risk: Spying, Secrets and Presidential Power,” America will be hit again perhaps even in a more deadly fashion, we took note.

One question addressed by the panel, which included former Reagan Justice official Bruce Fein, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, and ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein, is how we would respond to a second attack, given our response after the September 2001 attacks included passing the so-called USA PATRIOT act and invading Iraq, which would have been equivalent to the US invading Brazil after Pearl Harbor. They addressed the question, of course, on a more national, political level.

The question has meaning, as well, more local and immediate—How will we in Clear Creek respond in the event of such an attack? The working assumption is that Clear Creek has no targets that might draw the attention of terrorists other than the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels. That being the case, we would be more likely find ourselves in the position of supporting our neighbors in the metro area, which is considered potentially more prime for an act of terrorism according to Kathleen Gaubatz, Clear Creek’s Director of Emergency Preparedness. Perhaps less devastating than a terrorist attack and more likely is a natural disaster: high waters, flooding, forest fires, and the much heralded “avian (bird) flu.” The seasons for flooding and wildfire are imminent, and experts suggest the flu may be in the final stages of circumnavigating the world. In other words, our time is coming.

In past columns, I have taken President Bush and his administration to task for playing the “fear card,” and rightly so. Fear is the one emotion that works to keep a population in control. The panelists—liberal and conservative alike—spoke to that and to how we may be in imminent danger of “losing our republic,” as Fein put it. Thus, whether it is a terrorist attack, the dissolution of the Republic, or a wildfire, a healthy realization of potential danger is common sense, mandating preparation for whatever may arise. So, we need to poke our heads from under the snug blankets of our own little private worlds and get involved, to do what each is capable in the event of a disaster, natural or political.

Whether a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, it starts with you and your actions in your home, neighborhood, and community. It requires also cool-headed leadership and cooperation among our leaders. That was not the case at the national level during and after Katrina, and since then, nothing has changed. It is good, though, to see our local leaders take the bull by the horns by getting us educated and trained on how to respond should a disaster strike. A CERT training will take place Saturday, April 29, from 9:00 to 5:00 at the Idaho Springs fire hall. It’s time to step up. See you there.

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