Residents unfazed by terrorism alert
By TAMARA LUSH, Times Staff Writer
TAMPA -- Vinny Trumbach is prepared.
A three-day supply of food, rolls of plastic sheeting, extra duct tape -- Trumbach has it all.
Like many Floridians, Trumbach, 50, keeps those items around the house because of the state's annual hurricane threat. When the federal government increased the terrorism alert from yellow to orange last week, Trumbach decided he had done all he could to prepare for an attack.
"I'm just going to sit and watch TV," said Trumbach, a Tampa resident. "There are certain things I feel are beyond our control."
Homeland security officials say all families should respond to the heightened alert by making sure they have emergency kits, extra food and household disaster plans.
The agency suggests people keep plastic sheeting and duct tape handy in case they need to seal off doors and windows during a chemical or biological attack. It also recommends taking first aid classes, making sure fire extinguishers work and keeping hard hats handy.
But few people interviewed Tuesday around the Tampa Bay area said they are taking special precautions.
At Scotty's Hardware in Brooksville, the Wal-Mart Supercenter on State Road 50 and Home Depot on U.S. 19, there were no reports of runs on survival supplies.
"I really haven't seen anybody taking any extra precautions," said J.C. Crowder, owner of Crowder Express Hardware on Spring Hill Drive. "It's so removed from us."
Hardware stores in Pasco didn't report any increased sales of survival items. Ditto in Citrus County.
A couple of women walked into a Home Depot in south Tampa to check on the duct tape and plastic sheeting supplies. But they left without buying anything, said store manager Fred Skinner.
"I think I had more heightened awareness when the frost came," he said. "I sold more plastic and duct tape then."
Though most residents seem unfazed, local officials quickly sprang into action when the orange terror alert was announced.
The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office now checks the identification of everyone who enters its main headquarters in Ybor City. It also banned visitor parking in front of the building.
The Tampa Bay Research Institute will present "Biological Terrorism: Prepare for the Unexpected," at 3 p.m. Thursday at 10900 Roosevelt Blvd. N. The seminar will feature Lt. R. Scott Stiner, the disaster preparedness coordinator for the Pinellas Sheriff's Office.
But some people interviewed Tuesday said they see no point in acting on a terror alert with so few specifics.
"What are you going to do, stay in your house the whole time?" asked George Pearson, a St. Petersburg resident who retired from the U.S. Navy in 1993. "It's ludicrous. I'm not going to be running around here paranoid with tape and all that kind of stuff."
At Rudy's Ace Hardware on 54th Avenue N in Kenneth City, duct tape was on sale for $4 a roll. There were few takers.
Ginny Benton, a cashier at the hardware store, wasn't surprised.
"The threat of terror and the threat of war have made people afraid to buy things," she said.
Sandy Delancey just wanted to rent a steam cleaner so she could rid her rug of dirt.
"In times like these, the only thing you can really do is say a prayer and keep on moving," said Delancey, a St. Petersburg resident.
Gigi Kwik, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies in Baltimore, said the only way duct tape and plastic will be useful is if people know a hazardous materials attack is about to happen.
"The whole problem about biological weapons is that you're not aware of being attacked," Kwik said. "Unless somebody says, 'I'm going to spray anthrax at 3 p.m. tomorrow,' it probably won't help you.
"If you knew that, it would probably just be better to leave town."
-- The Associated Press and Times staff writers Monique Fields, Robert King, Jim Ross, Jamie Jones and researcher John Martin contributed to this report.
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