Security is stepped up at Baltimore trade center Most office workers are unperturbed

March 01, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Lawyers, bankers and insurance agents will find tightened security when they return to work this morning at a bomb-conscious Baltimore World Trade Center.

Only a few hours after a deadly explosion ripped through New York's 110-story World Trade Center, building managers stepped up security measures at Baltimore's 30-story building overlooking the Inner Harbor.

Security guards checked the underground loading dock, closed some walkways to pedestrians and stationed a marked police car in front of the building Friday after learning that a bomb exploded in the parking garage beneath the world-famous twin towers in Manhattan.

"We took precautionary steps in case there were any copy-cat incidents," said Raymond C. Feldmann, spokesman for the Maryland Port Administration, which owns and manages the building. Today, he said, tenants will be warned "to be a little more cautious, a little more aware."

For some downtown office workers and tourists, the New York blast prompted them to ponder the safety of high-rise buildings. But most remained unperturbed, concluding that Baltimore's skyline would be safe from terrorists.

"I don't think the Maryland National Bank building is on the top-10 hit list," said attorney Edward J. Adkins. He said he felt perfectly comfortable returning to work today on the 10th floor of Baltimore's oldest and one of the three tallest high-rises in the city.

Still, a few families and office workers said being trapped in a smoky, dark high-rise would be their worst claustrophobic nightmare.

Dotty Fefel vetoed a plan by her husband, John, to take their 4-year-old daughter, Amanda, to the observation deck at the World Trade Center yesterday. Instead, the family went window-shopping at the Gallery.

Jennifer Martinec, of Columbia, said she thought of the bombing when she got into the elevator to show two friends from Rockford, Ill., the view of Baltimore from the World Trade Center observation deck.

A lawyer who works in the 40-story USF&G headquarters on Light Street, another of the three tallest buildings, confessed that she was "a little nervous" about going to work in the mostly empty building yesterday.

But Kerrie Burch-DeLuca, a company spokesman, said the USF&G building already has tight security measures and emergency plans in place. Tenants participate in periodic fire drills, she said.

Downtown office buildings must have open stairwell doors, sprinklers and an emergency evacuation plan to comply with city and state codes, said Capt. Hector Torres, spokesman for the Fire Department.

In a disaster on the scale of the New York blast, which killed five people and injured over 1,000, Baltimore rescue workers would follow a detailed crisis management plan, Captain Torres said. The High Rise Emergency Aerial Team would pluck people by helicopter from the roof and set up slides for others to escape to the roof of a neighboring building.

Maryland's federally trained, 11-member bomb squad is on call to handle any explosion, said Bob Thomas, spokesman for the state Fire Marshal's Office. Baltimore and Prince George's and Baltimore counties all have bomb squads.

Downtown architects said buildings are designed to withstand high winds, fires and tremors, but not necessarily an explosion of the magnitude that hit the New York building.

Even a high-rise of concrete and fireproof steel will crumble if hit by a powerful enough bomb, said Glen A. Tipton, president of the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architecture.

"I do think that in every instance like this, whether its a major fire or disaster, teams of engineers and architects learn from that experience and apply it to further advance the safety of buildings," Mr. Tipton said.

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