The committee expects to release security suggestions in about a month, and is moving closer to meeting its goals.
By Shelley Street, The Paducah Sun
"We've come an extremely long way in a short period of time," King said. "The information sharing between the different parties that are involved has been incredible."
The primary goal is preparing the community to respond to an emergency caused by a weapon of mass destruction.
"We're a lot better off than we were before Sept. 11, but it will get a lot better in the next year," King said.
King was hesitant to release the committee's specific actions because of security concerns, but he said it has focused on updating agencies' internal plans in the event of an emergency, deciding how agencies can help each other, training members and buying safety equipment.
The committee includes representatives of law enforcement, military, fire departments, hospitals and emergency management staffs, as well as the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The meetings, which began in October, were weekly, then biweekly and now are monthly.
"The information was coming in real quick on preventative actions that different participants needed to do," King said. "We achieved that goal pretty early on, I'd say within three weeks of the committee actually meeting. And now it's settled down to long-term planning, long-term preparations and training."
The Paducah committee is one of only four in the state, King said. Others are in Lexington, Louisville and Frankfort. These committees will likely become part of an effort led by the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management to develop 14 hazardous materials response teams across the state, said Bob Carrico, area one coordinator of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management. Area one is composed of McCracken, Graves, Calloway, Marshall, Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman and Fulton counties.
"I think we'll be working with the group in Paducah as we implement that part of the program, as well as working with the other emergency management agencies in the area," Carrico said. "We've already had some discussions, but the details have yet to be worked out."
A statewide program has been delayed because state officials want to comply with the national initiative announced by President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft, Carrico said. Details of the national initiative are still being written, he said.
Carrico praised Paducah's readiness.
"I think the effort in Paducah is probably the most organized," he said. "That's not to say there are not other efforts, because there are and I hear of them somewhat, but it's a good effort there and I think it speaks well of the community, and it certainly won't detract from the overall state strategy."
Cash Centers, operations and recovery branch manager for the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, said the state's effort to organize hazardous materials response teams received approval from the Department of Justice just over a week ago.
The teams will be implemented within three years, he said. Area one will get the first team.
The plan for the teams began as a mandate from the Department of Justice after the Oklahoma City bombing, Centers said. Former Attorney General Janet Reno required the 125 largest American cities to form teams to combat terrorism. Lexington, Louisville and the greater Cincinnati area, including northern Kentucky, were part of that effort.
In early 2000, the Department of Justice extended the mandate and provided seed money for a baseline risk and needs assessment of the rest of the state, Centers said.
"The primary results were things we all know," Centers said. "They're places large numbers of people gather, such as Thunder Over Louisville and the (Kentucky) Derby. Terrorists want attention. If they can do something where there are already media, so much the better."
Centers said at least one location in each of the state's 120 counties was pinpointed as a concern.
Although Centers would not identify the vulnerable areas of western Kentucky, he said, "The big concerns were things like dams, sporting events, federal courthouses and in some cases even county courthouses, because there is always the concern that the local guy wants to get back at the judge or the sheriff."