Louisville Metro Officials Are Prepared As Nation Goes Heightened Terror Alert

By Tony Hyatt

(LOUISVILLE, February 7th, 2003, 6:55 p.m.) -- While Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge were announcing the new terror alert status, Louisville officials began notifying various agencies of the country's new status.

"We are asking people to react, but not overreact," Mayor Jerry Abramson said Friday. The mayor says disaster and emergency officials, as well as law enforcement and other support services such as hospitals, have been notified of the nation's new security status.

"We will have officers out in the areas that are specified under this alert status," said Police Chief Robert White.

White was briefed by the FBI Friday afternoon, and told reporters afterward that, in most cases, you'll see more officers at shopping malls and other areas such as chemical plants and utilities.

Abramson said hospital and emergency personnel were notified Friday afternoon, and as a result, officials now have a sense of where everyone is in case there is an emergency.

"We want to stress there have been no serious threats made against the city, and again, there is no reason to overreact," Abramson said.

Dick Bartlett, the head of Metro Disaster and Emergency Management, says the network involved in this alert system is much better than it was a year ago. "We are getting a better sense of what the federal government is talking about," Bartlett said, "and in this case, there is more of a focus of citizen preparedness."

When the alert was issued Friday, hotels and apartment complexes were two areas of concern coming out of Washington, D.C.

"We have put our security measures in place," said Tom O'Hearn, Manager of the Galt House. "At times like this, our bell captains, housecleaning staff and our security personnel are watching. We also have cameras, and we want to do everything that we can to make sure that our guests are safe."

O'Hearn says the hotel has had previous experience with preparations for Thunder Over Louisville, which in years past has had many dignitaries, government officials and law enforcement and security agencies working with the hotel.

Abramson stressed that people should go about their normal routines but with a heightened sense of awareness.

"All we are asking people to do is just be a little more observant in their neighborhoods and when they go out this weekend," Abramson said. "If you see anything suspicious, notify police."

Online Reporter:  Tony Hyatt

Online Producer:  Michael Dever