County officials say not to overreact to heightened warnings

— The trip to the hardware store for duct tape and plastic sheeting can wait.

Routt County officials advised residents Tuesday not to panic about heightened warnings of potential terrorist attacks. And judging by the plenitude of duct tape and sheeting at local hardware stores, residents don't seem too worried.

"Suggestions to use duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal a home in the event of a chemical or biological disaster are extreme," County Emergency Manager Chuck Vale said.

Emergency management officials throughout the country have been on high alert since news reports of a possible chemical or biological attack broke, Vale said, but there is no indication Routt County is facing those threats.

"We're not doing anything different," County Commissioner Doug Monger said.

County officials are instead urging residents to take common-sense precautionary measures for any sort of unexpected emergency.

Natural or human-caused disasters are always a possibility in Northwest Colorado, Vale said.

The county's emergency preparedness network, commonly known as the Reverse 911 System, immediately notifies people of pending disasters and tells them what to do about flooding, fires, hazardous waste spills and other emergencies.

Continuous National Weather Service broadcasts to Northwest Colorado are also on the horizon.

The $30,000 project would provide weather advisories for snow, freezing temperatures and small stream flood activities.

Residents can do their part by having enough supplies to be self-sufficient for a minimum of three days -- similar to preparedness levels suggested for Y2K.

"Any event that creates the possibility of separating you from normal conveniences and/or emergency services necessitates such planning," Vale said.

It makes sense to have water, food and batteries on hand, he said, but it is excessive to stock up on duct tape and plastic sheeting.

People often seal their windows and outside vents with plastic sheeting to insulate their homes during the winter. Reducing the air exchange inside buildings, however, can increase carbon monoxide levels and foster other health risks. People living in sealed buildings should monitor carbon monoxide levels with inexpensive detectors available at most local hardware stores.

"A lot of it is just common sense," County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

More information about personal preparedness planning and home safety is available at www.redcross.org, www.fema.gov and www.dhs.gov.

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