By WILLIAM LUNDQUIST
GOLD BEACH Curry County may be vulnerable to terrorist attack, but no more so than anyplace else in America, said Curry County Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Murphy Monday.
In fact, said Murphy, Curry County enjoys some safety advantages over cities: it is too isolated to have any strategic targets, and citizens know each other and notice unusual activities.
That doesnt mean Murphy discounts the possibility of terrorist attacks here or anywhere.
We take it very seriously, said Murphy. Weve seen now it can happen.
Murphy said he was called about the attacks on New York a few minutes after 7 a.m. on Sept. 11.
He was soon in contact with state domestic preparedness officials in charge of preparing Oregon for terrorist attacks.
He said that office helped him with a needs assessment last year to identify many potential targets in Curry County.
But how do you prevent terrorism in a free and open society? he said, especially in a county with only six deputies.
The task may be daunting, said Murphy, but he is working on it. The first step is to coordinate with state, county and city agencies.
The next is to train the professional and volunteer emergency responders in Curry County.
Murphy said accidents or fires can be lures to draw emergency responders into more deadly traps.
He said he wouldnt have thought twice about charging into the World Trade Center tower with a fire hose after the first plane hit.
Murphy said he will soon conduct a seminar for emergency responders teaching them what to watch for.
He said basics, such as the fact that most fires are not accompanied by explosions, can be forgotten in the rush to extinguish a blaze.
Even while the county becomes more vigilant, said Murphy, citizens should not live in fear, because the chances of an attack in Curry County are remote.
He said terrorists would have to somehow seek out and kill everyone in the county to make as big a statement as they would by hitting a single building in any number of cities.
That doesnt mean terrorists wouldnt come to a remote place like Curry County to hide or train, said Murphy, but it would be hard for strangers to blend in quickly here.
The greater threat, he said, may be copycat crimes by local residents.
We have some pretty unsavory people of our own here, said Murphy.