Security plan codes terror risk by color
BY AP Wire Service
Mar 13, 2002
WASHINGTON (AP) -- America is on yellow alert, facing a "significant risk of
terrorist attacks," homeland security chief Tom Ridge said Tuesday as he announced a
color-coded system designed to end confusion over terror warnings.
It will be years before the nation sees green -- the lowest threat level -- because terrorism
may be "a permanent condition" in America, Ridge said.
Ridge and Attorney General John Ashcroft have issued four terror warnings since the Sept. 11
hijackings, and local officials have complained the assessments were too vague.
Bush advisers feared that the public was getting frustrated with the broad alarms.
"What we're trying to do is work with the states and local communities (and) also the
private sector so we have a common vocabulary," the former Pennsylvania governor said in
describing the new system in a speech to the National League of Cities.
The new system ranks threats by colors -- green at the bottom and followed by blue, yellow,
orange and red as perceived dangers intensify.
The warning level can be upgraded for the entire country or for specific regions and
economic sectors -- such as the nuclear industry, Ridge said.
The system's guidelines give government officials advice on what to do as threats grow, but
no such guidance is offered for general public.
Ridge said the system is designed to motivate local leaders to develop emergency response
plans that would include ways to inform private citizens
about how to react to attacks.
Many governors, mayors and police praised Ridge's effort and pledged support, though some
said there were still holes. Ridge can't require local governments to participate.
"This is so much better than what they gave us before, which was not much," said Jerry
Keller, sheriff of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and president of the Major
Cities Chiefs of North America.
Under Ridge's system:
Green is a low risk of terrorist attack; blue is a general risk; yellow is an "elevated
condition," meaning there is a significant risk of attack.
America is at yellow alert because the al-Qaida terrorist network is trying to re-form after
defeats in Afghanistan and has trained thousands of terrorists, some of whom have probably
slipped into the United States, according to Ridge.
Orange signifies a high risk of attack and red means a "severe risk."
Ridge predicted local leaders would take part in the program.
"Unless we work together so that we have a seamless strategy through the state and down to
the local government, I'm afraid we won't be as strong as we need to be to confront what I
consider to be a permanent condition that we as a country need to accept as a fact of life,"
Local police agencies were notified Tuesday of the yellow alert. The color system was put in
force immediately for federal agencies; it will be subject to a 45-day comment period, after
which Ridge plans to turn it into a national framework.