City Officials Step Up Security in Fairfield, Ohio

FAIRFIELD - After receiving national attention for their homeland security efforts two years ago in Fairfield, Ohio, city officials have quietly continued to improve preparedness.

Security has been increased at city property. Fire and police officers have been trained in counter-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, nerve gas and radiology.

"A lot has been going on, but it's really transparent to the community because it's not a tangible thing like having a new fire truck," said Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett.

The emergency preparations of this small Butler County suburban city were praised along with New York, Los Angeles and 18 other cities in a U.S. Office of Homeland Security report published in October 2002.

The Butler County citywas applaudedfor updating disaster plans, replacing outdoor warning sirens and mailing a homeland security brochure to every residence.

Dennis Stuckey, the assistant city manager who wrote the brochure, said copies were still available at the city building. But they're no longer distributed, he said

"They're somewhat dated about what the city was doing, because we've done so much since then," Stuckey said.

In the past two years, 18 fire department employees have attended training in Alabama on dealing with biological terrorism and nerve gas; six firefighters traveled to Nevada for instruction on radioactive materials; and police officers attended conferences on counter-terrorism. Police commanders will attend in December a four-day seminar on dealing with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Fencing and gates now secure the waterworks and public works buildings, said City Manager Art Pizzano. Security cameras have been installed at Village Green park and other locations, he said.

"We're having to invest a larger percent of funds into these things, but frankly, you can't afford not to do it," Pizzano said.

Fairfield - as have many Ohio communities - has taken advantage of the $195 million in federal Homeland Security funds allocated to the state. Grants helped the fire department buy 27 respiratory devices, a $33,000 thermal imaging device, and 27 personal protection kits for chemical or biological releases, Bennett said.

Fairfield also has joined other communities in recruiting and training citizen volunteers. The 18-member Community Emergency Response Team received instructions in first aid, initial damage assessment and traffic control.