Rush is on to find something concrete to thwart terrorism

Associated Press

Fear of another terrorist attack and the threat of truck bombs has fueled a sudden rush to protect courthouses, airports and monuments, leaving concrete companies scrambling to fill orders.

"People are rushing to buy whatever is available," said Moffette Tharpe, president of Concrete Safety Systems in Bethel, Pa. "We’ve sold barriers to airports and to police departments and the military. It’s a whole new business for us."

Locally, barriers typically used along highways were quickly put into place at the entrance to Naval Station Everett as part of heightened security there since the attacks.

The barriers serve as a cheap fortification to keep a suicide bomber from getting close to a target with a truckload of explosives, said Michael Budd of Rockingham Precast Inc. of Harrisonburg, Va.

Military bases, nuclear plants, government agencies and other facilities quickly depleted his inventory after the attacks.

"We’ve shipped between 35,000 and 40,000 feet of barriers in the last three weeks," Budd said. "You name them, they’ve ordered them. I’ve been getting phone calls for orders in the middle of the night."

The standard concrete barrier is made of steel-reinforced concrete, can be moved from location to location, and costs between $20 and $30 per foot.

There are heavier, more expensive barriers that can be anchored to the ground and can stop a speeding truck, which not all light barriers can do, but they often require special orders, and that can take time, Tharpe said.

"For now, customers seem intent on getting something in place fast. They don’t want to wait," Tharpe said.

Rockinghams barriers now ring the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument.

It got its first orders for concrete security barriers in 1983 after a truck bomb killed 237 Marines in Beirut. There was another spurt after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Budd said.

The Reading Precast company of Pennsylvania built 249 concrete barriers for the World Trade Center after the first terrorist attack there in 1993. In the past few weeks, the company said, it has been swamped with orders again.

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