YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Ventura County

Panel Tells of Countywide Anti-Terrorism Steps


Sheriff's deputies have beefed up security at local mosques and synagogues.

The California Highway Patrol has visited the 76 firms that truck or ship hazardous materials into Ventura County, making sure all their drivers are properly licensed.

Local public health officials are developing systems to track illnesses among animals as well as people; a plethora of dead squirrels, for instance, could be an early indicator of plague.

And authorities, believing this coastal county of 750,000 is less likely to be hit by Middle East terrorists than domestic copycats, are updating files on local residents involved in militia, neo-Nazi and radical environmental causes.

These were among the insights a panel of disaster officials shared Tuesday night at a public meeting on counter-terrorism efforts. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum near Simi Valley--which, as part of the National Archives system, has its own security concerns--hosted the event.

The session drew 35 local residents, including Christine Nuttall of Thousand Oaks, a registered nurse and a volunteer emergency preparedness coordinator at her daughter's elementary school.

"I am kind of worried, to be honest," Nuttall said. "Living so close to Los Angeles, we could be the next target. Anything that might be targeted in L.A. could affect us here."

Sheriff Bob Brooks told the audience he and other local authorities are working hard to ensure that chemical and power plants, military bases, shopping malls, sporting events and other sites that might be targets have effective monitoring programs in place.

A multi-agency terrorism task force has developed local emergency plans and trained rescuers and health officials in the event of any kind of attack, including chemical or bioterrorist, Brooks said. Also, the FBI is in regular contact with local authorities.

Law enforcement intelligence suggests the county could be at least as vulnerable to home-grown terrorists as those connected to the Sept. 11 attacks. "The terrorists you'd have anyway may be emboldened," Brooks said. "You can't just look at Middle Eastern terrorism."

At the same time, he told the audience, there have been no credible local threats. "The question always lurking is, 'Do you people on the panel here know of some secret threat that you just can't tell us about because it's classified?' " he said. "The answer is no."

Tuesday's meeting was not the first occasion since the September attacks that law enforcement and public health officials have reached out to local residents.

Brooks and other officials had addressed economic development groups, service clubs and health care representatives. Tuesday's panel, however, was the most comprehensive to date.

Panelists also included local FBI supervisor Bob Mack, CHP Capt. Scott MacGregor, Public Health Officer Robert Levin, Chief Assistant Dist. Atty. Greg Totten, Deputy County Fire Chief Dave Festerling and Simi Valley Police Chief Randy Adams.

They told the audience there are many things citizens can do as well.

People should keep three days' worth of food, water and medicine at home; plan an emergency meeting place if families are separated and cannot return home; keep duct tape and plastic sheeting on hand so they can quickly seal off a safe room if a chemical attack occurs, and report suspicious activities to authorities.

"If you see somebody taking pictures of [the underside] of a bridge and focusing in on that," MacGregor said, "that's certainly something we'd want to know about."

Los Angeles Times Articles