9-11

Greenville firefighter Terry Clark looks up to the American flag as he thinks about other firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11. Clark, who has been with the fire department since 1985, said that when firefighters go into a burning building, they always have to fear for their own safety and the safety of their fellow firefighters.

Local government and law enforcement agencies have stepped up efforts to improve public safety in the past five years.

One lasting change was called for almost immediately following the terrorist attacks, although most Hunt County residents have probably not been aware of the difference until recently.

Other actions were taken behind the scenes and involved improving communication between area authorities. And one major facility in Greenville has been fortunate enough to continue in a “business as usual” approach, despite the several alerts which have come down the line since Sept. 11, 2001.

Immediately following the events in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, people visiting the Hunt County Courthouse were required to pass through metal detectors and be screened by security officers.

“We realized pretty quick that the courthouse was vulnerable,” said Hunt County Emergency Management Coordinator Dorsey Driggers.

The increased measures were kept in place for weeks afterward and were resumed on occasion, when the national terrorist threat level was elevated. During the interim, a large scale plan was formed to heighten overall security at the building, a plan which is just now being put into place.

Last month, the east and west side doors at the courthouse were closed to all but authorized county personnel, and eventually public access will be limited only to the first floor Lee Street entrance. A metal detector will be placed at the door and a video system has been installed to monitor traffic inside the courthouse.

“It is a lot more secure now than it was back then,” Driggers said.

The county’s volunteer fire departments have also been upgraded as a result of the disasters, as grants from the Department of Homeland Security helped provide for the creation of a hazardous materials response team.

“We now have the ability to respond to and control hazardous materials incidents,” Driggers said, adding the unit can effectively deal with emergencies such as radioactive, chemical and biological contamination incidents.

“We can’t clean them up, but we can control them,” Driggers said.

Many of the departments have benefited from Homeland Security grant funding which has paid for additional equipment and training.

In the minutes and hours immediately following the attacks, law enforcement officers in New York realized they could not communicate with firefighters or other emergency responders, and vice versa, as they all used different frequencies.

It was a situation with which the Greenville Police Department was all too familiar, as the department could not communicate with the fire department, American Medical Response or the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office. The agencies have had to relay their messages through various dispatch centers.

To help solve the problems, the Department of Justice instituted the Interoperable Communications Initiative, which allows two or more public safety agencies to communicate with each other, even if they use differing frequencies.

The Greenville Police Department has taken the first steps toward interoperability, by switching to a digital radio communications system. Next will be applying for a grant from the North Central Texas Council of Governments to pay for the rest of the equipment needed.

For Lori Philyaw, City of Greenville community relations manager, today’s anniversary is another chance to remind the businesses who use Majors Field Municipal Airport to remain on guard.

“This is the time of year they always ask us to be more careful,” Philyaw said.

Philyaw helps oversee the operations at the airport, which along with facilities across the United States was shut down for a time following the attacks.

There never was an incident reported at the city-owned airport, although there are times when federal authorities urge extra caution.

Such was the case last month, when the airport was contacted by the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of reports of a terrorist plot to blow up commercial flights between the United Kingdom and the United States.

Philyaw said city officials and the tenants at the airport took the latest scare in stride.

“I think everyone has been more diligent since 9/11,” she said. “We ask all our tenants to constantly be on watch.”

The city is lucky, Philyaw explained, to be able to call upon the resources available at the airport’s largest tenant.

“We’re very fortunate that L-3 has excellent security out there, as well as a 24 hour fire and rescue operation,” Philyaw said.

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