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After Sept. 11, Responders' Roles Change

For Immediate Release
September 10, 2013

By MICHAEL HALL The Brunswick News, 9/11/2013

Tuesday morning could have been a time of waiting for something tohappen for Glynn County Fire Capt. Hugh Brown. Or, maybe, a chance totake care of some routine station house duties.

Instead, Brown and his colleagues decided to do some running - up anddown five flights of stairs at the fire training tower, 22 times in arow, wearing full fire fighting gear.

For them, it was both a tribute to and a reminder of what New York Cityfirefighters who responded to the World Trade Center Sept. 11, 2001experienced after the terrorist attacks that forever altered the courseof American history.

"And they were doing it with extra gear on while carrying otheritems while only going up," Brown said as he stood next to a glass casehousing a twisted piece of metal from one of the World Trade Centertowers, in the lobby of the Glynn County Fire Departmentheadquarters.

Although Tuesday's exercise was not a recreation of events, Brown saidit showed how difficult the situation was.

Running the stairs also made him think of how different the world,specifically the job of a firefighter, has been since the attacks. "Ithink a lot of things (about the job) have changed," Brown said.

Both the outlook of firefighters, paramedics and police officers andhow they are perceived have changed greatly in 12 years, Brownsaid.

Glynn County Fire Chief Al Thomas said the world got a clear view ofhow dangerous a firefighter's job can be through the New York Cityattacks that claimed the lives of 343 firefighters and paramedics. TheSept. 11 attacks, including one on the Pentagon and airplane passengerswho thwarted a plan to fly a fourth plane into the Capitol, killed2,753 people in all.

"I think it was a wake-up call for everybody across the country,"Thomas said.

Since the attacks, Thomas says police departments, fire departments andemergency management agencies have worked together more closely,devising plans and preparing as much as possible for a potentialcatastrophe.

Part of that planning has included having public safety agencies adoptuniform communications equipment so they can launch a coordinatedresponse.

"It changed the way we do business, as a whole," said Glynn CountyPolice Capt. Jay Wiggins, who is emergency management agency directorfor the county. "It can happen anywhere, anytime."

But the response to 9/11 was a different emergency situation than for ahurricane. It was a terrorist attack, meaning police officers jobschanged, as well.

"It is something we do take very seriously," Wiggins said. "Lawenforcement changed more in one day than it did in 20 years."

Today, officers regularly train to be ready for anything, including inGlynn County, where the U.S. Department of Homeland Security operatesthe Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Wiggins said.

Officers are taught to be mindful of anything that may indicateterrorist activity and to report it. "You can't be too careful. If yousee something, say something," Wiggins said.

That is why Brunswick Police Chief Tobe Green says his officersregularly train with county police and city and county firedepartments.

This past week, Green says his officers trained in an active shooterdrill with the Brunswick Fire Department.

"We're always on a heightened level of awareness," Green said. "Since9/11, it's sharpened our perspective about not just what did happen,but what can happen."

For that reason, Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering says workingwith all agencies aims not only to respond to an emergency, but also toprevent something terrible from happening.

* Reporter Michael Hall writes about public safety, environment andother local topics. Contact him at mhall@thebrunswick, onFacebook or at 265-8320, ext. 320.