By Gabriel Baird and Kelli Esters
WHEATON – Jill Berkman scoured stores in the District of Columbia’s Maryland suburbs Wednesday for supplies to protect her Bethesda apartment from a chemical or biological terrorist attack.
Finding no plastic bags or duct tape in Bethesda, Kensington and then Wheaton, the 37-year-old reached for packing tape and vinyl shower curtain liners.
“It makes you feel silly,” she said, “but you want to feel safe.”
Concerned Marylanders in the Washington area took to the stores Wednesday, stocking up on supplies in case a terrorist strikes the region. The level of concern for a terrorist attack increased after warnings from top federal officials and a taped message released Tuesday from Osama bin Laden, calling for attacks against America.
An hour after Hardware City Home Center in Kensington opened Wednesday morning it sold out of roll plastic and duct tape.
“We’re down to heavy-duty trash bags and Scotch tape,” said store manager Lawrence Finney. “We were hit hard.”
The store even sold out of drop cloths. A big order of supplies is due Friday. Until then, people are buying first aid kits, dust masks, propane, flashlights, and clear trash bags. Fortunately, Finney set aside some plastic and duct tape for himself to make sure he wouldn’t be without.
A manager of the Home Depot in Baltimore hadn’t heard about people buying such supplies. But a manager in a Hyattsville Home Depot said anxious customers had reached his store.
Dennis Billman, the owner of Clinton Hardware in Clinton said he has enough supplies for people who are coming in asking for plastic and duct tape.
“They’ve been purchasing rolls of drop cloths and polyurethane rolls in all sizes,” Billman said. “Who knows if it will work.”
In the office of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, Quentin Banks fielded calls from state residents asking if they should go out and buy gas masks and how to get to the nearest fallout shelter.
“Unfortunately there are no more fallout shelters,” said Banks, agency spokesman. But, there are things people can do to make safe rooms in their homes.
He’s been telling residents to prepare a home disaster kit, which should include a three-day supply of water, non-perishable food, non-electric can opener, flashlights, lots of extra batteries and blankets.
“All of this stuff should be portable in case you have to leave your home,” Banks said. “It’s all common sense, and it’s all on our Web site.”
While not everyone at the mall was buying supplies, most said they believed the threat of a terrorist attack was real.
Chucky Carter, 28, of Germantown, strolled around Westfield Shoppingtown Wheaton looking for a present for his girlfriend’s birthday.
“I mean if something is going to happen, it’s going to happen,” he said. “I’m not going to change my life.”
A father of three, Dave Johnston, 39, of Elkridge, said he fears the threat of terrorist attacks is going to be a constant factor in his children’s lives.
“I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Finding no duct tape at the Target in Wheaton, Barbara Gay, 63, of Bethesda, read the labels on other kinds of tape and tried to decide how best to protect herself.
“I have a flashlight, but I need batteries and a portable radio, too,” she said. “I can always return it if I don’t need it.”
For more information or tips contact, Maryland Emergency Management Agency at 1-800-422-8799 or on the World Wide Web at http://www.mema.state.md.us.