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As Long as We Remember...

March 4, 2004

Genesis: How To Be Safe and Sorry At The Same Time

David 'Kip' Koontz

This Genesis is not the first book of the Bible, but rather a disaster plan, being drawn up by Sheriff Jim Hagy and the Nuclear Subcommittee. It will place a decontamination and medical treatment facility at the fairgrounds in Frederick City, for those who are being evacuated from Baltimore or Washington, in the event those cities are attacked by a "dirty bomb."

Curiously, a defender of the secrecy in which the plan is being cloaked said recently that there is a misunderstanding on the focus of the plan which he said is designed to treat Frederick Countians who work "down the road" and in turn may suffer the affects of a "dirty bomb."

Would that make those neighbors to the fairgrounds feel any more comfortable knowing it is only Frederick Countians who are being treated and not simply a hodgepodge of folks from all over?

Who knows what the truth is at this point?

It is understood that some secrecy is needed when it comes to security. Yet, one might think that we would be able to be given slightly more information in order to help alleviate the fears of an unknowing community.

The situation might be improved if Sheriff Hagy had included Frederick authorities instead of leaving many of them in the dark.

Is there really any justification in denying our Local Emergency Planning Committee access to the plan? Should they have been involved in creating the plan?

One would think they will be on the front line of dealing with the influx of people, to deal with traffic concerns and attempt to maintain order in the community in what will surely be a terrifying time.

But, then again, maybe they will be bypassed altogether.

While there are those members of the Frederick City Department of Police who have been involved in most of the meetings regarding this plan, one can question why there has not been an attempt to cultivate a spirit of cooperation among our elected officials who, one would think, should be aware of this plan if it is ever needed.

The meeting that was held to familiarize our elected officials was scheduled at a time when the mayor of Frederick City, in which the fairgrounds sits, was unable to attend - because their regularly scheduled Mayor and Board meeting was underway.

Additionally, the meeting was scheduled when our county commissioners were in a meeting as well, meaning they too were unable to attend.

What is troubling about this is that Sheriff Hagy seems to lack a concern about the fact that Frederick City officials were unable to attend, being quoted as making a comment along the line of "it is not his responsibility to know when the city holds meetings."

On something as important as the safety of our community one would think organizers would go out of their way to ensure that everyone who needs to attend can do so. After all, they are responsible for the residents of their individual jurisdictions.

Months ago when it was decided that Sheriff Hagy would head up Frederick County's disaster response plan, he garnered a lot of support because of his length of experience and knowledge of county services overall.

At that time, Mayor Jennifer Dougherty was displeased with the selection, believing that Frederick City police chief, Kim Dine, should have been selected for the position.

Some say that Mayor Dougherty is still upset over this, thus her anger at not being included in the process.

Regardless of the motivation, the mayor and board of alderman of the city in which the treatment center is located should be more involved than getting reports from those police officials who are or have participated in the planning.

If only so that a contingency plan can be put into place to ensure that pandemonium and utter confusion doesn't break out in Frederick City, should this plan ever need to be put into effect.

Also, there are members of the Board of County Commissioners who believe they are not adequately part of the process either; after all, the meeting the sheriff held was at a time they could not attend either.

Sheriff Hagy's seeming insistence that this plan be kept so secret is leading to fear and unease among many in the Frederick community and that is the crux of the matter - people are afraid as they are hearing, rightfully or wrongfully, that not all those people who might need to be involved in this process might not be, and the scope of this plan seems to change according to every report.

Whoever is "in charge" or whoever feels as if they are being "slighted" is completely irrelevant when it comes to public safety, would it not be best if our officials err on the side of reassuring the public?

No matter what this plan is truly intended to do, and no matter what it really is, wouldn't we would all be better off if those in charge would stop, take a few minutes and realize that there is more at stake than individual responsibility and importance?

There is a responsibility to those of us who live in Frederick City and Frederick County, and the only way to make us feel better about what may be the worst case scenario, is to get those on whom we must rely for protection and information involved in the process as quickly and thoroughly as possible and let us know about it.

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