What terrorism alert? Locals blase about warning of possible attacks | TheUnion.com

What terrorism alert? Locals blase about warning of possible attacks

Eileen JoyceSwenson's Sales Associate Jamie Miller holds up two different gas masks Thursday. The store sells the mask on the right but Miller says people need the mask on the left to really be protected from chemical attacks.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Washington, D.C. is more than 2,600 miles away from Western Nevada County, which is why Jamie Miller believes the recent terror alerts issued by the United States may be little more than much ado about nothing.

Miller, a sales associate at Swenson’s Outdoors, has gas masks in stock – just not the ones that would prove effective in the event of the release of lethal gas as part of a terrorist attack.

The gas masks the store has that sell for $13 are good for a few uses, he said.

“For Halloween, sure,” he said. “We’ve been telling people to not even bother.” The masks are normally used when painting or spraying herbicides.

“The (biological) chemicals, if they seep through, you’re dead even before you could get this on fast enough,” he added.

Western Nevada County’s response to Washington’s raising the terror alert to the second-highest level, asking the American public to stock up on plastic sheeting, duct tape and gas masks to protect against a terrorist attack was tepid at best in hardware stores and supermarkets Thursday.

Numerous rolls of duct tape hung untouched at B&C True Value Hardware. The plastic sheeting aisle was empty.

What buzz there was centered around protecting homes and buildings from an impending rainstorm Thursday that was due to intensify later in the week.

“We’re in Grass Valley,” said Rosie Doolittle, owner of Swenson’s Outdoors. “We’re not sitting next to Washington, D.C., where people are just waiting to do something to you.”

Doolittle lived near Sacramento’s Mather Air Force Base as a child, and wondered during the Cuban missile crisis in the early 1960s about the planes flying overhead as she walked to school.

“We kept thinking, “is that plane going to drop a bomb on us. I just found it sad to always be that scared.”

Indeed, more people seemed to be talking about the threat of a terrorist attack than doing anything to cope with it.

“They’re here covering up more important things than worrying about a terrorist attack,” said Dan Wheat, owner of A to Z Supply on Ridge Road.

Wheat said he recently turned down a San Diego distributor’s offer on bargain-basement prices for duct tape, though his store did carry rolls as long as 60 feet.

And though the bottled-water display at Albertsons was depleted Thursday, store employees suggested it probably had more to do with the threat of power outages and a special price than any perceived threat to homeland security.

Wheat probably shared the sentiment of the day: “I’m not one who believes anything catastrophic will happen.”

Of all the government’s tips for protecting yourself against a terrorist attack, it is duct tape that seems to have seized the public’s attention. But terrorism experts are skeptical about how much good it would do.

The idea is that tape and plastic sheets could provide a sealed-off room in case of chemical or biological attack. The government recommends keeping duct tape and scissors on hand, as well as pre-cut sheets of plastic for sealing the doors, windows and vents of an internal room at home.

The government says that in the event of an attack, people should turn off all ventilation, go to that room and seal it with the tape and sheeting. If the room has 10 square feet of floor space per person, it should provide enough air for up to five hours, the government says.

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