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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Ridge on Preparations for Possible Terror Attack

Aired February 19, 2003 - 10:43   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you now to homeland security director Tom Ridge, announcing the new proposals and this new Web site that we'll all be looking at in just a few minutes.
TOM RIDGE, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: ... and we'd just like to continue to look to you for modeling as to way we hope things can be done around the country. So thanks for that warm greeting.

And thank you, Marti (ph), for those very kind words, and for all that the American Red Cross continues to do to get Americans prepared.

Let me also thank our dedicated partners who have made this campaign possible. The Ad Council. The Sloan (ph) Foundation. And your member agencies that have worked around the clock to produce this excellent and critically needed public information campaign.

I do want to mention the Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association, whose members have committed the content of this program to over 500 million directories that'll be distributed around the country this year.

We've got a great team, and we're working together.

I also want to thank the Hamilton Council Citizen Corps Council, your community leaders and first responders. The Citizen Corps has built a very aggressive, a very active preparedness model, a role model for others. Well done. And thank you for your time this morning, and I look forward to continuing our conversation after these remarks.

I do want to recognize someone else I brought with me from Washington, John Bridgeland. I think everybody knows John. If you don't, he's an assistant to the president, working on America's Freedom Corps, citizen corps. He's fathered many of these institutions, and we're proud to bring him back home. He's a proud son of Cincinnati and we're glad to have him with us.

I want to speak today not just as secretary of homeland security, but as a father and as a husband. As families and as a nation, we now live with a sense of unease, an uncertainty that those of us who grew up after the greatest generation have rarely, rarely known. And of course this uncertainty, this sense of unease, is heightened during heightened national alerts.

RIDGE: The sense of uncertainty steals some of the innocence and some of the security that we painstakingly try to build for our children. It's not always easy to know the right thing to say or the right thing to do. We all want to stay aware and we all want to stay informed. And at the same time, we do not want to surrender to fear. We'll never surrender to fear. Because fear is the terrorist's most effective weapon.

So the threat of terrorism forces us to make a choice: We can be afraid or we can be ready. And today, America's families declare we will not be afraid and we will be ready.

(APPLAUSE)

So today we launch the Ready Campaign. It's goal: to build a more prepared nation, one individual, one family, one neighborhood, one community at a time.

We're launching this initiative through a multi-year, multimedia information and public service advertising campaign donated by several private sector partners, reaching every single citizen in our great country.

Our message is this: We cannot always predict an attack. We can always prepare. There are simple things you and your family can do to prepare for the unlikely but possible terrorist incident, namely make a kit, make a plan, and be informed.

First, an emergency supply kit. We would encourage people to start with three days worth of nonperishable food and water. Remember, even if your community, if your home, if your neighborhood is not directly affected by an attack, your life or your daily routine may be disrupted.

RIDGE: You may need to shelter at home for a couple of days, maybe the roads and stores would be closed, the electricity might be turned off, maybe your water supply will be interrupted. So we just want you to be prepared for that eventuality.

Add some flashlights, battery-powered radios, a first aid kit and medicines. I think you understand the drill. An emergency supply kit.

You can pull a lot of those things probably right off the shelf or right out of your closets right now, put them in one place, and go about the business of being a spouse and a parent and doing what you do, and that's enjoy living in the greatest and freest country in the world.

Oh, and, yes, I have to say: stash away the duct tape.

(LAUGHTER)

Don't use it, stash it away, and that pre-measured plastic sheeting for future -- and I emphasize future use.

Experts tell us that a safe room inside your house or inside your apartment can help protect you from airborne contaminants for several hours, and that could be just enough time for that chemical agent to be blown away. That's the reason it is included on the web site and included in the emergency supply kit. Probably won't need it, but in case you do you'll have it available. We would not recommend these measures if they did not make a difference. All the same, we hope you never have to use them.

Second, make a family communication plan. This is very important. After all, think about this: How often is every member of your family in your house at the same time? You're right. If you're family is at all like mine, and I'm sure it is, it's rare.

RIDGE: So you need a family communication plan. So quite simply, make certain that everyone knows how to get in touch and knows what the emergency plan is.

Every state, every community, every school, every workplace should have an emergency plan. Find out what it is, find out who's in charge. And if your school or your employer doesn't have a plan, then volunteer; volunteer to be part of a group to create one.

The third piece of this very important but very simple approach toward being prepared is simply be informed. An emergency is not the time to plan, it's the time to react. So be informed. Different types of attacks require different responses. The actions you would take in a conventional attack may be counterproductive if you took them in response to a different kind of attack.

Now, you can get the information you need by logging on to our new web site, ready.gov., or you can call 1-800-BE-READY. Let me say that again. The new web site is ready.gov, call 1-800-BE-READY, and you get printed information once you make that phone call. For the first time, the right information, the information you need will be in one place; know what to expect, know how to protect yourself and your family from harm.

Now, there are added benefits to being prepared. We're having a conversation right now with a lot of your terrific first responders in this community, your police and firefighters.

RIDGE: They tell us that avoiding panic and confusion in a crisis helps them do their jobs better. So when you protect yourself, you're protecting your community, and it's one less concern that the first responders have at the time of an incident. It makes sense for you. It also makes sense for you to support your first responders as well.

Now, preparedness can also help us cope with natural disasters. Families in different parts of this country prepare for different emergencies.

Now, think about it, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, snow storms. Families prepare, communities prepare as a matter of routine for those events. So let's embrace the same attitude and the same approach and take some simple steps to protect ourselves and our families against a possible terrorist attack.

Now, rest assured, ladies and gentlemen, we will prevail in this war. We will prevail because of the commitment and the effort of all those professionals who go to work every single day securing the homeland, whether they're in the military, the CIA, Customs, FBI, the Transportation Security Administration, the Border Patrol, the Center for Disease Control, the Coast Guard, first responders, and the list goes on and on. These men and women go to work every day. Their mission is to deal specifically with a piece of homeland security. Those are the professionals. They're going to help us win the war.

Every day we apprehend, disarm or destroy terrorists right where they live. Every day we disrupt their networks and reduce their funding. Every day states and counties and cities become better prepared. And when the threat level is raised, so is our level of readiness. You can count on it.

RIDGE: That's what the professionals are trained to do, and that's what they're doing.

But whatever the threat level may be on any given day, every family and every citizen will know that they have done their job if they take the time to be prepared.

So the professionals take a look at that national threat warning and it's a sign to them that they may have to vary or enhance security or preventive measures. The national threat warning is really the security personnel and the law enforcement personnel in this country.

But regardless of the threat level, once an individual or family has been prepared, you can be assured you've done everything the country wants you to do regardless of the threat level.

The Ready Campaign will help you so you can then go about the important business -- your most important business of being a family.

Now, the people behind this campaign, the Ad Council, the Sloan Foundation, the United States Postal Service, the Salvation Army, the Yellow Pages, the National Association of Broadcasters, they're all people you know. They know how to motivate and they know how to mobilize Americans. People you trust, such as firefighters and emergency personnel, will be the messengers.

The campaign will be joined by members of Congress, governors, mayors, county commissioners, the business communities, groups large and small.

These folks are truly committed to this effort. And in fact, many of them have joined us here today. And we thank them for their tremendous work and their support of this initiative.

Also assisting us are more than 300 citizen corps councils across this nation. We'll get the word out. And they'll help us turn these words into action.

The Ready Campaign is designed for those who want their families to be prepared, but have asked us, "What can I do?"

After September 11, many of you wrote a check, volunteered or raised a flag. So now we're asking you to write an emergency plan, buy supplies and hang a list of contact numbers on the wall.

We cannot be complacent. Terrorists are strategic actors and they act on their timetable, not ours. They seek to turn our neighborhoods into battlefields. That is why individual citizens have such an important role to play.

Much of our population and much of our nation's critical infrastructure lies in suburban and rural America.

RIDGE: The next attack could happen to any community at any time. The random, unpredictable nature of terrorism itself requires, hopefully, everyone to take our recommendations to be prepared regardless of where they live.

So let me be very clear: Taking charge of your own safety does not mean that you're charging into this fight alone. In addition to our Ready Campaign, the Department of Homeland Security stands ready to deter and detect terrorism 24 hours a day. We've made a great deal of progress in a great many areas. Smart borders to protect our safety and our economy. Tough international shipping container standards. Fifty thousand highly trained federal screeners at our airports. New plans to protect our physical and cyber-security. The nation's first early warning network of sensors to detect a biological attack. Billions of dollars to help our public health system cope with an attack. And very shortly we will help distribute new funding to our nation's first responders to help them train and to equip to address any threat, conventional or otherwise. These funds are sorely needed and certainly long overdue.

The point of the Ready Campaign, however, is that new awareness is as important as new funding. In one newspaper last week, a man was quoted as saying, "The chances of getting hit are too small." I would say to him, "Not small enough," ladies and gentlemen, "Not small enough." I hope he reconsiders his statement and at least goes home and gets prepared.

We also must avoid a sense of fatalism, the feeling that the risk is just too great, too catastrophic, and we can't do anything about it. I respectfully disagree. We can do plenty about it.

Governments at all levels are working on it. Companies are working on it. Citizens are working on it. We're doing plenty about this. We know the worst that terrorists can do and we know how to prepare to survive it, prevent it, and reduce our own vulnerabilities. And we're doing it every day. America across the board is doing it every single day.

We must follow the lead of those dedicated men and women on the front lines of homeland security who feel unease. They feel the same sense of uncertainty, but they channel that into action, whether it's the TSA screener inspecting luggage at the airport, a border patrol officer checking trucks for explosives, a firefighter running into a burning home to save a missing loved one. These people dedicate their lives to our nation and to our safety.

As citizens, we, too, have a commitment to make, to ourselves, our families, and to them. We make it by being prepared.

This is not just a response to terrorism. We truly believe it's a deterrent. In his last taped message bin Laden said -- I think his last video tape message -- he said something to the effect that he relies mainly on the psychological war, on fear to defeat Americans.

Well, we're here to say to all terrorists that a nation of citizens who are alert and prepared, a nation of citizens who refuse to panic, well, that's a terrorist's greatest fear.

RIDGE: The president has asked for our prayers and our patience and our cooperation, and America has responded. Now we ask for one more thing: individuals and families to take these simple steps to be prepared.

I urge all Americans to join the Ready Campaign and become part of this history-making effort. As I said before, ladies and gentlemen, terrorists force us to make a choice: We can be afraid or we can be ready. Americans aren't afraid and we will be ready.

Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Now, I mentioned before, we've had some great partners in this effort. We've had the Sloan Foundation and the Ad Council. And I'm going to ask representative -- presidents of both those organizations to share a few thoughts with you.

First, Ralph Gomory, president of the Sloan Foundation. They stepped up in a major, major way with millions of dollars to help us put together this marketing program.

And then Ralph will be succeeded by Peggy Conlon, who's the president of the Ad Council. We first met with Peggy in November of 2001. The history of the Ad Council goes back many, many decades to helping raise awareness and get Americans prepared.

And these two great leaders and their organizations, in partnership with the other entities we mentioned, are really at the heart of this extraordinary campaign.

So I am going to ask Ralph to come up and say a few words, and then Peggy.

Ralph?

(APPLAUSE)

RALPH GOMORY, PRESIDENT, SLOAN FOUNDATION: Thank you, Secretary Ridge, for your marvelous leadership in the really difficult task of countering terrorism in our homeland.

Ladies and gentlemen, today we feel the pressure of elevated terror alerts and the possibility of war. But in addition to these immediate issues, we do face a long-term problem that will not go away.

Technical progress, especially in biotechnology, is spreading around the world the ability to kill on a very large scale. This ability, once reserved to the most advanced nation states, is becoming much more commonplace. It is becoming available to small states, and even to small groups, foreign or domestic. It is putting into the hands of a few the power to kill many.

This change forces us to respond. We have no choice but to harden America against terrorism. While code alerts can signal greater or lesser danger in the immediate future, the underlying trend of steadily increasing danger does not change and the necessity for responding to it never goes away.

There is, however, much that we can do against terrorism already today, and doing well those things that we already know how to do can make an enormous difference, and we should do those things.

GOMORY: But in addition, we can learn to apply the inventive power of this country to civil defense as in the past we have to military defense.

Many experts in and out of government have contributed to the material that we are releasing today. We certainly plan to improve and add to that material in an ongoing way. And I hope that whatever shortcomings today's version has, we will focus on them, improve them and keep on learning, and to find continuously better advice and more effective actions to take.

But let us not focus on shortcomings as a way to avoid making that response to terrorism that, in fact, we must make. We must not waste the time that we have been given and we must not fail to respond.

Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

And now I'd like to introduce the president of our great partner, The Ad Council, Peggy Conlon.

(APPLAUSE)

PEGGY CONLON, PRESIDENT, THE AD COUNCIL: Thank you, Ralph.

Good morning, everyone.

For 60 years, The Ad Council has been delivering PSAs to the American people in order to raise awareness and create change around some of the most important issues that this country has had to face. Today we're proud to continue that mission with the launch of this campaign.

The ads that you are about to see, and those that are displayed around the room, were developed pro bono by the talented people at the Martin Agency represented by their president today, Mike Hughes. And from the start of this campaign, our partner, as you know, has been the Sloan Foundation, who's provided expertise, as well as financial support.

I'd like to thank both the Sloan Foundation and the Martin Agency for their relentless commitment and public service.

Now, let's take a look at the PSAs. First, the television, which includes six ads in total, four 30-second spots, one 60- and one 15- second ad. Please roll the tape.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIDGE: Families in Florida prepare themselves for the hurricane season. Families in California prepare themselves for earthquakes. Every family in America should prepare itself for a terrorist attack.

RIDGE: And, quite frankly, things are very simple. An emergency supply kit. A communication plan. You can learn how to do them on our web site. You can get a brochure.

Terrorism forces us to make a choice. We can be afraid or we can be ready. To ultimately be the victor in the war against terrorism, we need all Americans to be engaged, down to the point where we ask mothers and fathers to think about doing some simple things at home to protect themselves and protect their children, like creating -- making an emergency supply kit, have a good communications plan for your family. You can learn how on our new web site. You can call for a brochure. We're asking America to be ready, and we will be ready.

(UNKNOWN): I think it's irrelevant where you live or how many people live in your community. It's America. America's the target, not just New York. It's everywhere, and we all have to pitch in. It's time to get serious about preparation. The threat is very real. We know that. And there are some positive things that you can do to better prepare yourself and your family to deal with these problems.

Learn to protect yourself at ready.gov or call for a free brochure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIDGE: There are a lot of real simple things that people can do to protect themselves and their families.

(UNKNOWN): Making sure you have a communications plan with your family is important.

(UNKNOWN): Store water and nonperishable foods for at least three days.

(UNKNOWN): Have a flashlight, you know, extra batteries.

(UNKNOWN): Also having, you know, prescription drugs available.

(UNKNOWN): We're talking the simple necessities of life.

RIDGE: We're asking America to be ready, and we will be ready.

(UNKNOWN): Learn to protect yourself and your family at ready.gov or call for a free brochure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(UNKNOWN): Security, I think, is not always a given, which may have been something that we took for granted in the past.

RIDGE: To ultimately be the victor in the war against terrorism, we need all Americans to be engaged, down to the point where we ask mothers and fathers to think about doing some simple things at home to protect themselves and protect their children.

(UNKNOWN): No terror that's even greater not knowing your children are safe, your family's safe. (INAUDIBLE)

(UNKNOWN): People and your children understand that there is a plan.

(UNKNOWN): Having these plans in place is just sort of common sense.

(UNKNOWN): (INAUDIBLE) a communication plan, how to get in touch with each other.

(UNKNOWN): You'll have a radio. You'll have a flashlight. You'll have batteries.

(UNKNOWN): Make sure you have enough water and food.

(UNKNOWN): Have your basic essentials that you would need in everyday life.

RIDGE: You will have done something to prepare. You are in control. You had a choice. We're asking America to be ready.

(UNKNOWN): People will pull together and people will make it through this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIDGE: Every family in America should prepare itself for a terrorist attack. You can learn how on our new web site. You can call for a brochure. Terrorism forces us to make a choice: We can be afraid or we can be ready.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CONLON: Pretty powerful work, don't you think?

(APPLAUSE)

Now we're going to listen to three radio PSAs. Each of them are 60 seconds in length. Roll the tape please.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): Department of Homeland Security, this is "Families in Florida," a 60 radio PSA produced by the Martin Agency, February 17, 2003.

HARRIS: And with that secretary of homeland security Tom Ridge their wrapping up his presentation this morning, and he's also going to be showing off some new commercials that the department has put together to get the message out to people across the country, different pieces of advice, and also directing people to go to the Web site. We've got a shot of the Web site that's being put up. If you'd like to go there yourself, here it is. It's ready.gov. You heard this is all part of the ready campaign. Go to ready.com, and you'll find more details that you heard the secretary talk about and announce this morning.

As you can see there, the top three nuggets of information is to make a kit, make a plan and be informed. The secretary saying that you can take charge of your own safety, and he says that you can't always predict an attack, but you can be prepared.

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