Task force formed to protect Pierce County from terrorists

Executive John Ladenburg yesterday announced formation of a multi-agency task force aimed at safeguarding Pierce County citizens and public facilities from terrorist activity.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor and Emergency Management Director Steve Bailey will head the task force, which is made up of law enforcement, utility, fire, emergency medical, health and other local agencies. It also will work with state and federal agencies.

“The terrorist attacks Sept. 11 make it imperative that Pierce County and other local governments across the nation prepare for the unimaginable,” Ladenburg said.

“We must ensure that our county and its cities are as well prepared as possible to deal with all possibilities.”

The task force’s early priorities include developing intelligence and information exchange networks, identifying potential terrorist targets and establishing plans for mobilizing public safety resources in response to acts of terrorism.

Pastor said public safety agencies stepped forward to support the anti-terrorism efforts.

While Pierce County is taking the lead in this effort, the group will include public safety agencies, utilities, and health and medical organizations throughout the county.

The FBI, Fort Lewis, McChord Air Force Base, Washington State Patrol and Washington National Guard also have been invited to participate.

Attention also will be given to identifying and protecting the county’s critical infrastructure, including freeway bridges, and educating citizens.

“This effort will include public water and power systems, emergency medical and hospital issues,” Bailey said.

Meetings will begin shortly to develop task force strategies and assignments.

Early plans include scheduling a major exercise next spring to test the results of the task force’s work.