State officials continue to prepare for possible attack, disaster

Emergency management, terror experts weigh in on ISIS situation

President Barack Obama addressed the entire nation Wednesday night, laying out his plans for the U.S. in taking on ISIS in the Middle East. The announcement came less than 24 hours before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“From that moment through the foreseeable future, we’re all going to need to be on guard and be vigilant in our own communities,” said Tod Pritchard, with Wisconsin Emergency Management.

Pritchard said training and equipment for local law enforcement have been bolstered since concerns for homeland security started to grow 13 years ago. Wisconsin Emergency Management sponsored 129 training courses last year, and more than 30 disaster and terrorism exercises took place across the state in 2013.

Pritchard said Wisconsin officials now coordinate closely with other state governments to make sure response goes off without a hitch in any sort of crisis.

“We really work together really well and that really wouldn’t have probably happened so much a few years back, but now it’s critical that we do that and we have those communications, especially with our neighboring states,” Pritchard said.

Andrew Kydd, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is teaching a course specifically on terrorism this semester. Kydd said while ISIS has publicly beheaded two American journalists, the group has not made any direct threats on America’s homeland.

“ISIS is still primarily concerned with what’s going on in its own region,” Kydd said.

Kydd said ISIS is still dangerous, especially in light of its organization and ability to acquire territory in the Middle East, both things al-Qaida did not succeed in doing.

“So you’ve got an unfortunate combination of extremist ideology and military competence, which is not good from our point of view,” Kydd said.

However, Kydd said the terror group is primarily focused on its region and the events transpiring there, rather than investing time and energy in launching an act of terror in the U.S.

“Right now in the homeland, we don’t see a lot of direct threat from them,” Kydd said. “The question is down the line if they were allowed to consolidate their hold, become a state, would they then become a major sponsor of international terrorism? It is possible that they would, and I think that’s a major concern.”

Pritchard said Wisconsin Emergency Management is just as concerned with an attack rooted somewhere in the states and planned out by individuals rather than a group. He pointed to the Boston Marathon bombings as an example of such an attack and asked that the public remain vigilant in reporting suspicious activity.

“I think Wisconsin is a much safer place, but it’s really up to each of us as individuals to help make it safer,” Pritchard said.