Security vigilance maintained

Since the Sept. 11 tragedy six years ago today, U.S. citizens have become accustomed to heightened security measures at airports. Residents may not realize some of the things local authorities have been doing.
Cary Ashby
Jul 25, 2010

Since the Sept. 11 tragedy six years ago today, U.S. citizens have become accustomed to heightened security measures at airports.

Residents may not realize some of the things local authorities have been doing.

Within the last 18 months, the Norwalk Police Department has been trained in how to respond to traffic stops when an occupant is on a federal terrorist "watch list." Chief Kevin Cashen said that information, received via computer, could request officers simply obtain the suspect's personal information or even make an arrest.

"There's a wide range of responses. The bottom line is we receive information on how to handle that person," he added.

Police have used that training once in the last year.

"It simply asked us to report the nature of the contact ... which basically was a traffic violation ... and that was it," Cashen said. "He didn't even know we were doing anything."

After the traffic stop, police reported the information to the Strategic Analysis and Information Center in Columbus. Since then, the federal government only listed the person in the traffic stop as a "person of interest," Cashen said.

There was no further information.

Also within the last year, several supervisors with Norwalk's special response team did training on handling explosive devices at Defiance College.

"It was sponsored by the federal government," Cashen said.

Norwalk Fire Chief Doug Coletta said firefighters in general are more aware of national terrorism-related situations, but local residents' "thought processes haven't changed that much."

"People are doing a good job around here of using their heads and not panicking," Coletta said.

Several years ago, the federal government mandated the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Coletta described it as a communications class, making sure all first responders would be using the same terminology.

"If I say 'fourth division' to somebody, they'll know it's the fourth floor," he added. "We continue to train on it once a year."

Coletta has taught NIMS at the county health department because supervisors thought it was important in case there was an emergency affecting the well-being of the community.

"I thought it was a very good call for them to have that class," the fire chief said.

Local firefighters also had training related to weapons of mass destruction several years ago, with annual refresher courses after the initial licensing.

Shortly after Sept. 11, Huron County Juvenile Court Administrator Chris Mushett remembered workers used an internal process to inspect incoming letters. He called it the most intensive security measure in recent years.

"It's been several years since we've been doing it," Mushett said.

With juvenile court since 1977, Mushett has seen security levels remain about the same. After a time of heightened security, those same measures have gradually been stopped.

"It seems like when we see added security, it seems to (relate to another) incident in (another) court house," Mushett said. "Different events spur things."

The county courthouse installed a metal detector and X-ray machine at the front door about November 1998. Huron County Sheriff's Cpl. Dave Luc was providing security at the time.

"They were purchased by the grant provided by the Ohio Supreme Court," he said, for upgraded security in courthouses.

Visitors were surprised to know the courthouse had the machines before Sept. 11.

"People thought it was a good idea. We didn't receive any complaints," Luc said.