Where Was Plum Island’s Security?

Basically you would expect this place to be protected in the manner of a James Bond villain’s lair! High tech security. Constant diligence. Massive law enforcement presence

anthraxresearcher.jpgWhy is no one else disturbed about the recent Plum Island incident? The boater that washed ashore on Plum Island last week may have saved his own ass while also showing how lax security is on a most mysterious and hazardous island!

I hear your question. Why should I care about Plum Island?

Plum Island is located off the North Fork of Long Island. It’s less than 10 miles from Connecticut. It used to be run by the Department of Agriculture. It’s a scary place.

We’re proud of our role as America’s first line of defense against foreign animal diseases.

We’re equally proud of our safety record. Not once in our nearly 50 years of operation has an animal pathogen escaped from the island.

The island houses labs performing dangerous research often with live diseased animals! They publish papers with titles like, “Swine Genomics and Biodefense Countermeasures Discovery ” Some tests are performed on genetically engineered cloned swine–so called “knockout pigs.”

No wonder Plum Island needs “state-of-the-art biosafety practices and procedures to prevent a disease organism from escaping into the environment.”

In case you weren’t already convinced of this place’s importance, “Land, buildings and other facilities of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in June 2003.” You know them–the shoe people from the airport.

Basically you would expect this place to be protected in the manner of a James Bond villain’s lair! High tech security. Constant diligence. Massive law enforcement presence. Actually that’s close to what Plum Island claims.

Restricted access to authorized employees and approved visitors. Trained security professionals and surveillance systems guard the island, laboratory and storage areas 24/7. All employees have pass security clearances.

Last week an unlucky boater drifted across the Sound, landed on Plum Island and walked a few miles across it before being found… but only because he’d stumbled upon the security facility and waited!

New Haven Register: “Security personnel had been away from the office to look for Young and found him upon their return, according to John Olsen, Coast Guard operations controller.”

Just a guess, but had this been a real emergency I don’t think he would have walked to the office and waited, right?

I don’t know everything on Plum Island and probably don’t want to. Even with the little I know this undetected incursion scares the crap out of me.

Has DHS come to the same conclusion I have? God, I hope so.

High Alert – Steffie Flies

We’re under a High Alert from the Department of Homeland Security. Hopefully, police and security agencies know what to do, but for us mere mortals there are few clues.

The official word is, “Go about your business.” Great. It’s like being told not to think about an elephant in pajamas. What else could you possibly think of after that?

If you boil this alert down to its essence, the only effect it’s having on the general public is to scare us. If we’re not supposed to do anything different, what other benefit is there?

Meanwhile, Steffie had reservations to fly to Florida and visit my folks. This was going to be our first experience with Southwest, after switching my frequent flier allegiance to them a few months ago.

Helaine and I never talked about it, but there was no point when we considered changing Steffie’s plans. I feel confident in the safety of air travel. Beyond that, it would seem a Southwest 737 from Hartford to West Palm Beach via Tampa would be a very unlikely target.

Speaking of Southwest, the report back from the airport was mostly positive. Helaine and Steffie got there early so Steffie could be in “Group A” under Southwest’s non-reserved seating policy. Depending on when you check in, you’re assigned A, B or C. A’s board first and have their choice of seats and overhead storage.

There had been a time when National Guardsmen inspected cars on their way to the parking garage at Bradley Airport. Not so today when you’d expect it.

Southwest is in the new terminal at Bradley and Helaine reports it’s bigtime. Southwest allows three bags at 70 pounds apiece, so Steffie was easily accommodated. Helaine asked for, and was quickly issued, a gate pass, so she could stay with Steffie while she waited to board. We were expecting good, friendly service from Southwest and weren’t disappointed.

Once onboard, in row 7, Steffie called Helaine to let her know things were fine. The next call came after arriving in Tampa. All I got was a reply to my cellphone text message. Without going into the entire message, I’m a loser.

It’s OK. It was said with love. I think.

Steffie’s flight made it on time. Now, she gets a full week of being spoiled (and listening to A&E at stun level volume) with my folks.

The house will be eerily quiet, and though Steffie and I are often at odds, I will miss her.

Terror Alert Color Code

The Homeland Securty Advisory System has just gone from “elevated” to “high.”

With all due respect to the Department of Homeland Security, the whole color coded warning system is ridiculous. Not because it might not predict the future, but because it answers the wrong question.

I don’t want to know that something might happen. I just want nothing to happen. That’s the purpose of these governmental agencies. Anything else is CYA posturing.

With governmental programs, though it’s not limited to governmental programs, we often see policies that confuse process with results. It was that adherence to process that allowed airport security checks to become worthless, while still following the rules.

Haven’t we learned anything?

One more thing. Is there anyone, anywhere, who anticipates the warning level ever going down to “green”, for low risk of attack?