The head of Missouri’s homeland security effort came to Columbia Tuesday to sound an alarm about potential threats to the state’s food and water supply.
Tim Daniel, a retired Army colonel and Columbia native, told a group of rural journalists, MU professors and other professional communicators that the government and the media must work together to “increase the psychological capability of Americans to cope” with a terrorist attack.
The director of the Missouri Department of Homeland Security also announced the launch of the Missouri Homeland Security Network, an e-mail service created to inform journalists of potential threats and disaster-related news. The service begins Nov. 1.
Daniel was the keynote speaker at a workshop titled “Terror in the Homeland: New ideas for covering disasters that affect agriculture and health.” The event was sponsored by the Health Communication Research Center at the MU School of Journalism and the Sinclair School of Nursing.
“This is a chance for policymakers and scientists to speak to the journalists,” said Jon Stemmle, a research center spokesman. “This is a topic that’s not going away any time soon.”
The all-day event included panel discussions on emerging biological threats, emergency preparedness and a history of bioterrorism in America.
Daniel’s presentation elicited several comments.
Marty Steffens, a professor of business and financial journalism, asked what the department was doing to assess intelligence from the bottom up rather than from the top down. Daniel cited a recent example of a woman who informed the department of a potential threat at Bagnell Dam that later proved inaccurate.
John Anthuis, a Shell Knob resident who works for a community newspaper, stressed that the department must consider all the ways terrorists will disguise themselves to carry out an attack.
Kent Collins, an associate professor of broadcast journalism, asked if Missouri’s rank as the 10th largest recipient of federal homeland security money had more do with its threat potential or with a lack of preparedness.
Daniel said the answer rests somewhere in the middle.
“There are some things in Missouri that are very important to the national economy,” he said, mentioning the large population centers of Kansas City and St. Louis.
Still, the state has a significant way to go before it can be deemed secure, he added.
“I’ll be the first to say that Missouri is not ready,” Daniel said.