New terror alert system starts April 26

Wednesday - 4/20/2011, 7:34pm EDT

By John Buckner
Federal News Radio

The Department of Homeland Security will implement the new National Terror Advisory System on April 26. This new system focuses on communication and simplicity, replacing the color coded system adopted in 2002.

"We are moving to a system that provides factual information to individuals about specific terrorism alerts, sharing with them as much information as we can, what they need to do, how should they prepare and how they can get additional information," said Janet Napolitano, secretary at DHS, at a press conference Wednesday.

DHS has the new terorr alert website available now at www.dhs.gov/alert.

The new alert system will use an interagency committee with members of the intelligence community including the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigators and DHS and others.

"[These agencies] are constantly analyzing intel and would make the original kind of analysis and recommendations," Napolitano said. "It would be myself or whomever is the secretary of DHS, who would ultimately make the decision."

The new system would include two levels of warning: elevated and imminent. She said the warnings could be issued by sector or parts of the country, and will last no more than two weeks unless the interagency group extends it.

The new warnings could be conveyed to the public through Facebook and Twitter. Unlike the colors, the alerts will have expiration dates.

The past system described the threat in five colors, from green, low risk, to red, severe. Napolitano said the government has been preparing to move to the new terror alert system or the past three months.

"We have spent some time over the last 85 days or so doing some 20-odd table top exercises practicing different scenarios under the new system so we can better anticipate what some of the questions are and make sure it is a smooth running as possible when it begins," she said.

Napolitano said the threat level in the U.S. is currently at an "elevated baseline," and future public warnings will hinge on specific and credible intelligence above and beyond that threshold.

She said terror threat to the U.S. is at its highest since 9/11 because of the increasing number and types of international and homegrown threats. This does not mean there is a specific threat of an imminent attack.

John Buckner is an intern at Federal News Radio. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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