Security officials react to start of war with Iraq

Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2003

FAIRBANKS - The start of the war against Iraq has heightened vigilance by Alaska homeland security officials, who said they've been preparing for possible terrorism attacks since Sept. 12, 2001.

"Actually, right now what we are doing is what we've been doing," said Major Mike Haller, a spokesman for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. "I would say we're doing it with perhaps a heightened effort. We're certainly sensitive to the fact that we've engaged the enemy."

While a national call for heightened security has led to lockdowns of some facilities in Texas and armed airport patrols in Massachusetts, none of those measures has been taken in Alaska.

"We have no indication that Alaska is singled out or that facilities in Alaska have been singled out to a greater extent that anywhere else," said Wayne Rush, the state's Homeland Security coordinator. "Our recommendation is people go about their daily lives."

Rush does suggest, however, that families review their disaster plans, including having ways for family members to communicate if a disaster strikes. Another step is to have enough supplies stockpiled to be self-sufficient for up to seven days.

"The terrorist attack doesn't have to happen in Alaska for it to have a significant effect on us," Rush said.

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard will be pulling double duty as they step up regular patrols and put armed sea marshals onboard many of the cargo ships and tankers that call on Alaska ports. And all traffic entering Anchorage's international airport is subject to being stopped and searched.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. declined to comment on specific security measures.

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