Chicago Area Remains on High Alert Businesses, Law Enforcement, Emergency Crews All Are Watching out for Terrorist Threats

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Byline: Mick Zawislak Daily Herald Staff Writer

At a time when the newest federal agency is the Office of Homeland Security, Chicago remains on alert, knowing that shocking acts of terrorism have no boundaries.

As a big city, business hub, major financial center and the crossroads of the nation's transportation system, is the Chicago area on the hit list for terrorists?

"Quite frankly, all major metropolitan areas should take adequate precautions," said Roger Paris, chief operating officer of Crisis Management Worldwide, an international security consulting firm specializing in protecting businesses from terrorist attacks.

According to Paris, the World Trade Center and Pentagon were "symbolic targets" representing our country's financial and military might. Chicago's high-rise buildings and financial center could hold symbolic value as well, he said.

But other considerations are coming into play. Authorities in any big city, Paris said, have to be concerned with the infrastructure - the bridges and highways, airports, power grids and communications centers, for example.

"We've seen symbolic targets hit in the last week here as the terrorist organizations look at other vulnerabilities," he said. "They may look at other target sets."

Paris said he has already given his clients, which include Chicago businesses he refused to name, an assessment of the element of risk. One precaution he would share was for businesses to work closely with established state and federal agencies.

"They need to look very carefully at the intelligence available to them - keep their ear to the ground," he said.

The search for those with knowledge of the terrorist attacks came to Chicago last week with the FBI's arrest of a Hickory Hills man who worked in a Burbank convenience store.

In and around the city, emergency management and law enforcement remain on a high level of readiness. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the coordinating agency for the federal government in times of disaster, opens its regional operations centers on a selective basis, spokeswoman Linda Sacia said.

The Region 5 center in Chicago, which covers Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio, has not closed and will be staffed this weekend, she said.

"The activity on our Web site has been very, very large. In fact it's the largest in history," she said.

In Springfield, the Illinois Emergency Operations Center, where representatives from all major state agencies as well as the FBI, Red Cross and others come together to coordinate and plan responses, also remains open. …