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Dealing with terrorism

January 15, 2006|By PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

RANSON, W.VA. -

Charles Town Races & Slots. Railroad bridges. Wal-Mart.

If Dave Donohue was a terrorist, he told a small group of fire and rescue members Saturday in Ranson, then - hypothetically - he might hit any of those sites, depending on his background, his beliefs and his motivations.

Donohue is a training specialist on The Washington (D.C.) Capitol Police Hazardous Materials Response Team (HAZMAT).

Eight people from fire and rescue companies in the Eastern Panhandle listened and learned from Donohue Saturday at a Weapons of Mass Destruction Operations Training Program at the Independent Fire Co. The training program is to continue today.

Prompted by a question from a students, Donohue explained that it's important to know what might motivate someone to strike a public place before determining what possible targets are in the area.

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"It depends on why I'm doing it," he said, speaking as if he was a terrorist.

Hypothetically, animal rights activists "cheesed off" about racehorses or terrorists wanting to "economically impact" the area, might strike Charles Town Races & Slots, he said. If a terrorist wanted to ruin the area's infrastructure, he or she might go after the rail bridge in Harpers Ferry.

He also said Wal-Mart could be a possible target because "a lot of people are getting angry at Wal-Mart in general."

But Donohue said it's not always a group and it's not always known what's behind an attack.

"One guy sitting alone in his basement, he scares me more than anybody," he said.

To prepare his students Saturday for possible hazardous situations, Donohue gave them a series of chemistry lessons. The group hashed out how they would protect themselves if presented with radiation, how they would investigate such an incident and what warning signs of contamination they would look for in patients.

Jeff Heavner, a Slanesville Fire Co. volunteer firefighter and member of the West Virginia Regional Weapons of Mass Destruction Response Team, said it is important to keep up with training in this area.

Heavner, 31, said there are "close to 3 million different types of chemicals out there," and knowing their dangers will help out everyone in the long run.

The training Saturday was for "worst-case scenario" situations, he said.

Glenn Norris, 41, a volunteer firefighter with the Independent Fire Co., said he signed up for the class because, "In the area we live in, it seems like pretty pertinent information. As close as we are to the metropolitan area, we would be called upon if there was an attack."

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