Authorities: Report Suspicious Activity
Residents were urged, by officials, to report all suspicious activity at a homeland security meeting this week, even though there is no specific reason to believe an act of terrorism will occur in Rockaway, they said.
"I don’t want to make you alert to the point that you’re paranoid," said New York City Police Department Counter Terrorism Deputy Inspector Gary Scirica who told the Far Rockaway High School audience to be vigilant, and outspoken.
Scirica said the NYPD investigates every call, but said, "We’d rather respond to 100 false threats than not investigate the one that is real."
With the peninsula so close to JFK International Air Port, the question as to whether a plane could be downed from a nearby location was raised. A NY, NJ Port Authority representative explained that there is regular aerial surveillance.
"But we do need your assistance," said Gene Ceccarelli, the Port Authority’s Assistant Police Chief.
Residents were told to take the prudent step of storing a flashlight and radio, with batteries, in a safe-but-easy-to-reach place. They were also asked to consider making a "Go Bag," or a pre-assembled pack, filled with essentials, which can be quickly grabbed in the event of an evacuation.
Though evacs are rare, Mike Gimpel, a response coordinator for the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), said that Rockaway has been studied. When asked about specific plans, and how efficient they would be, Gimpel explained that they are event specific—and that one universal plan can’t be created because terrorist activity and weather emergencies are too unpredictable.
Also at the meeting were representatives from local hospitals. They spoke about how emergency centers prepare for a panicked public—or what they called the "worried well." Reps from Peninsula, Jamaica, St. John’s Episcopal, and Elmhurst Hospitals discussed each of their facilities as well as the dangers associated with chemical and biological weapons and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
About 75 people turned out for the meeting hosted by Congressman Gregory W. Meeks.
To report suspected terrorism call the NYPD at 1-800-NYC-SAFE. For non-emergencies call 311. Additional information on homeland security, evacuations, and other emergency planning issues is available on New York City’s website: www.NYC.GOV