Terror Alert: Knowing the Code--Part Two

For two weeks, the nation has been under a high alert for terrorist attacks. We're now at orange, the second-highest level on the Department of Homeland Security's color-coded advisory system. With each color alert, what do you really need to be prepared? The government says, while we can't predict when or where the next attack will happen, we can be ready.

Desmond Leong, visiting Savannah from St. Louis, Missouri, to us, "It's beyond my control. If it's time to go, it's time to go."

And Arika Wadley of Bowie, Maryland, said "I don't really know what precautions to take, so I don't really know what to do."

Most people don't know what to do. Or what to make of the Homeland Security Advisory System.

"I know when the colors change, we're supposed to be more on guard. Of course, I have not changed my habits or anything," noted Savannah resident Scott Center.

The Homeland Security Advisory System was developed to help government agencies--like police and the FBI--and businesses prepare for an attack. Phillip Webber, the director of the Chatham Emergency Management Agency, says you need to be cautious, but as the threat level climbs, be ready to act.

"Their level of preparedness, individual preparedness and family preparedness, needs to go up," Webber said.

The advice the Homeland Security Department is putting out on television, radio, and a new website, is "Make a kit, make a plan, be informed." But it's not just to prepare you for a direct attack.

"We're talking about an interruption of services," said Webber. "We're not talking about someone invading your neighborhood."

Most of what you'll need for an emergency kit, you can find at your local supermarket or discount department store. One of the most important things you can have in your emergency kit is water. You'll want enough for three days. You'll want one gallon per person in your family, for every day.

Emergency experts say you'll want a three-day supply of nonperishable food. Look for canned goods like meats, fruit and vegetables, a manual can opener, snacks, flashlights and extra batteries, and an oil lamp or candles. Don't forget your pets' needs, either. You'll also want to make sure you have any prescription medications.

The Homeland Security Department recommends you pick up supplies like heavy-duty garbage bags or plastic sheeting, air filter masks, and duct tape, but Webber says remember, it's just a precaution.

"It doesn't mean that you start taping up your windows or posting a guard out on your front lawn," he said.

You'll want to make a plan, in case you're separated from your family by an emergency.

"How do you communicate with each other? Have you chosen a third party that everyone will call into to keep up with each other?" said Webber.

Webber says to stay aware of the warnings, but don't let it interfere with your life.

"They still need to get out in the garden. They still need to take walks. They still need to read books and get away from the hype," he advised.

Once your family is taken care of, you may want to help set up a plan where you work. And if you still want to do more, emergency experts say you've got plenty of opportunities to volunteer right here in our community. Visit CEMA's website or that of the United Way to find out about volunteering.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com