Security is tightened at area facilities

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 18, 2003

[03/18/03]Agencies are tightening security in Vicksburg in response to the heightened terrorist threat level set Monday following the president’s warning of war.

“We are aware that the threat condition was raised after the president’s speech last night and we’re taking all the precautions that we can,” said Frank Worley, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Worley said the specifics of enhanced security measures will not be disclosed. “Obviously the good guys as well as the bad guys read the papers, and we don’t want to give the bad guys any information,” he said.

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Vicksburg is home to the U.S. Army Research and Development Center on Halls Ferry Road, the Mississippi Valley Division downtown and Vicksburg District on East Clay Street.

While most of the work at the three agencies is related to civil works projects and is not classified, many projects are related to military operations and are secret.

After terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, security was tightened at all three agencies including blocking gates with heavy equipment and requiring identification before entering the facility.

In total, the three agencies employ about 2,700 civilian and military personnel.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has been conducting drills around Mississippi to help prepare emergency workers.

Emergency workers have practiced how to evacuate casinos among other things. The shiny gambling boats dotting the Gulf Coast and several Mississippi River counties, including four in Vicksburg, are among the biggest tourist magnets in the state.

Jamie Ross, spokesman for Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Claiborne County, said plans to evacuate the facility about 25 miles south of Vicksburg are the same in the event of a terrorist attack as plans would be in any other disaster.

“At this point our security personnel are getting ready for the orange level,” Ross said.

She said there are no plans to enhance security there with additional personnel and that it would be up to the governor to deploy the National Guard. Soldiers were stationed at the power plant for months after the terrorist attacks 18 months ago.

Armed guards continue to stand post at the gates into Grand Gulf, but Ross would not say what other measures are being taken. There are about 690 employees at the nuclear plant.