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Troops begin to tighten security clamp

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Signs of increased security for the 2002 Winter Olympics are becoming more visible in downtown Salt Lake City.

In addition to the ever-increasing road closures and walls of fences and concrete barriers being constructed, heavily armed U.S. Army National Guard troops dressed in full camouflage are now helping with security around the Salt Palace. The soldiers are checking the IDs and bags of people entering the facility and inspecting all vehicles coming and going from the secured area.

The high visibility of the National Guardsmen is no accident.

"That's a direct result of 9-11," said Stanley Gordon, assistant adjutant general of the Utah National Guard.

Part of the visibility is to give the public a sense of reassurance that the Games will be safe, Utah Olympic Public Safety Commander Robert Flowers said.

There are currently about 1,000 National Guardsmen in Utah to help with security, and another 2,400 are expected to arrive this weekend, Gordon said.

In the next two weeks, about 8,000 people are expected to arrive in the Beehive State to assist with security. "It's the beginning of a wave of activity," Flowers said. But not all of those people will be as visible as the National Guard.

More than 1,000 FBI agents arrived in Utah last week. About 2,000 federal officers, including Secret Service members and about 800 ATF agents, are expected to be in Utah shortly.

In addition, about 2,400 officers from Utah and other states will do their part to keep the Games safe.

In the coming weeks the role of the Guard troops will become less visible, Gordon said. Right now they are being used to help local police departments with security around the perimeters of all the Olympic venues.

As additional federal agents arrive in Utah, they will take over the perimeter security duties, Gordon said.

The main duty of National Guard troops, however, is to act as an enhancement for the plans already established by state and local officials.

"We're an enhancement to a good plan prior to 9-11," Gordon said.

To help federal, state and local officials get information out to the public during the Olympics, a Joint Information Center, which will be open 24 hours a day beginning Jan. 28, is now open. The public can reach the center by phone, 801-538-1337, or e-mail jic@uopsc.net for information on public safety, transportation, health and other government services

In addition, the Salt Lake County Fire Department dedicated its new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Thursday. The building will be a gathering place for state and local officials to gather information, make decisions and coordinate the responses of emergency personnel during disasters and large-scale emergencies.

During the Olympics the EOC will be used as a specialized management center, Emergency Management Director Dennis Stanley said. There will be people from the Olympics working at the EOC continuously throughout the Games, he said.

The EOC itself has enough backup power to be self-supporting for 14 days if necessary.

E-MAIL: preavy@desnews.com