Categories  DHS

Obama ends color-coded threat warnings

The Obama administration plans to replace the widely mocked color-coded terror warnings with a simpler, two-tier system: “imminent threat” or “elevated threat,” with more detailed information.

“The alerts will be specific to the threat,” a senior administration official told POLITICO. “They may ask you to take certain actions, or to look for specific suspicious behavior. And they will have an end date. …. [The Department of Homeland Security] will implement this new system on a clear and simple premise: When a threat develops that could impact the public, we will tell you. ”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano planned to make the announcement Thursday in a “State of America’s Homeland Security” address on at The George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute.

“When we have information about a specific, credible threat, we will issue a formal alert providing as much information as we can,” the official said. “Depending on the nature of the threat, the alert may be limited to a particular audience, like law enforcement, or a segment of the private sector, like shopping malls or hotels. Or, the alert may be issued more broadly to the American people, distributed – through a statement from DHS — by the news media and social media channels.

The Department of Homeland Security has planned an implementation period from Jan to March 2011.

“State and local government, law enforcement, private and non-profit sector partners, airports, and transport hubs will transition to the new system,” the official said. “This means that the days are numbered for the automated recordings at airports, and announcements about a color code level that were, too often, accompanied by little practical information. This new system is built on the common-sense belief that we are all in this together — that we all have a role to play — and it was developed in that same collaborative spirit.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement: “I definitely appreciate the Department’s effort to revamp the alert system. Though the system served a valuable purpose in the terrible days and months following the terrorist attacks of Sept 11th, it was clearly time for the current color-coded system to be replaced with a more targeted system. … It sounds to me like the changes they are proposing make sense. We will have to wait and see how they implement this new, more targeted system.”

About the Homeland Security Advisory System

The Homeland Security Advisory System is designed to guide our protective measures when specific information to a particular sector or geographic region is received. It combines threat information with vulnerability assessments and provides communications to public safety officials and the public.

  • Homeland Security Threat Advisories contain actionable information about an incident involving, or a threat targeting, critical national networks or infrastructures or key assets.
  • Homeland Security Information Bulletins communicate information of interest to the nation’s critical infrastructures that do not meet the timeliness, specificity, or significance thresholds of warning messages.
  • Color-coded Threat Level System is used to communicate with public safety officials and the public at-large through a threat-based, color-coded system so that protective measures can be implemented to reduce the likelihood or impact of an attack.

This system was established in Homeland Security Presidential Directive 3.

Politico January 27, 2011

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