What you can do to help keep Georgia safe

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As we continue through the holidays and approach the beginning of a new year, it’s common practice to look back at the last 12 months and take stock. This year we’re faced with the reality that individuals in this country and abroad continue to use violent attacks to make a statement. Unfortunately, this isn’t a new occurrence. Well before Sept. 11, 2001 there was an element of global presence which sought to attack our way of life in America.

Regardless of the rationale or logic, some individuals have claimed injustice or that they are required, by religious calling, to attack American ideology. This thought process has led to a name for the challenges we now face — we call it the “Global War on Terror.”

As events of recent months have unfolded, we have been reminded that this War on Terror is ever-present. We watch news reports which chronicle those who seek to do harm, we ponder the unimaginable thought process which “radicalizes” those who are looking for a way to fit in. Acknowledging this, it is increasingly obvious that we all must be part of the solution. That’s just the world we live in.

Across the state of Georgia, there are literally thousands of emergency managers and homeland security officials whose sole function is to ensure, as best we can, the safety and security of those who live, work and visit here. Our collective teams approach this incredible task with the highest levels of professionalism and expertise, but we also depend on an extra participant in the modern era of combating terrorism.

You are the critical piece that will help us ensure safety here at home. This holiday season, I’m writing to ask you for an “extra helping” of diligence.

You’ve probably heard of the “See Something, Say Something” campaign. The philosophy of this campaign is that we all stay aware of the activities taking place on our street, in our workplace, at school and where we worship. As we share common experiences with our neighbors, we are more likely to recognize changes in behavior that may be cause for concern.

As you go about your daily routines or holiday activities, if you notice something that causes you concern, let a law enforcement person know. The method which you pass that information along is less important than the communication itself. You never know when one piece of information might be a key puzzle piece to solving a critical security question.

Having said all of that, it’s important to follow up with a confirmation that this is not a time to be wary of how this information might be used. I feel confident making the statement that there are multiple agencies, at the local, state and federal level, that are working in concert better than they have in a very long time. These challenging times have brought a renewed sense of teamwork and I’m truly proud of the ongoing collaborative effort. You should be, too.

The bottom line is that we cannot let those who may have ill intent succeed in their desire to adversely impact our way of life. To let that happen would simply be un-American.

Please enjoy the celebrations and festivities that this time of year brings. As we continue through the holiday season and into the new year, make it part of your daily routine to be vigilant and engaged in your surroundings.

If you notice something that might be out of the ordinary, something that you just want to let someone else know about, please don’t hesitate. Working together, we can make our communities more secure.

Happy holidays.

[Jim Butterworth was appointed director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA/HS) by Governor Nathan Deal in January 2015. In this position, he serves as the homeland security advisor to the governor and is responsible for coordinating the state’s preparedness, response and recovery from natural disasters and acts of terrorism. These duties include leading Georgia’s Emergency Operations Command and ensuring successful function of the State Operations Center.]