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Terror threat warning system unveiled

Ridge unveils the new Homeland Security Advisory system
Ridge unveils the new Homeland Security Advisory system  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge on Tuesday unveiled a new color-coded U.S. threat advisory system to create "a national framework and a common vocabulary" so that government and the private sector can deal effectively and efficiently with threats of terrorist attack.

"Today we announce the Homeland Security Advisory system," Ridge told a gathering of federal officials and local law enforcement representatives.

The warning system has five levels starting with green, the lowest alert level, followed by blue, then yellow, orange and red, the highest state of alert. Each code will trigger specific actions by federal agencies and state and local governments.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports on Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge announcement of the nation's new color-coded threat-alert system (March 12)

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"For every level of threat there will be a level of preparedness," Ridge said. "It is a system that is equal to the threat."

Ridge said the nation currently is on yellow alert.

"The nation currently stands on the yellow condition, an elevated risk," he said. "Chances are we will not be able to lower the condition to green until, as the president said yesterday, the terror networks of global reach have been defeated and dismantled."

Bush administration officials said the public will not always be informed when the threat level changes. One official said a high threat level could at times have a deterrent effect on terrorists. In other instances, the official said, making a threat level public could tip off terrorists that they are under surveillance.

Ridge said last week that the plan will be geographically specific whenever possible.

The plan will be open to comment for 45 days. Ninety days after the comment period closes the plan will be finalized.

The Office of Homeland Security has been working for months to develop the plan after state and local governments complained that the general threat warnings issued by the federal government did not give them enough information to respond effectively.

The federal government cannot demand that state and local officials comply with the plan, so they have taken pains to consult them during its formulation.

Ridge spoke Monday to the National League of Cities, urging its members to cooperate and collaborate at the local, regional and state levels under the umbrella of homeland security.

Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.


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