The national terrorist threat level was officially raised to “high” (Orange) at 4:00 p.m. EDT on May 20.
President Chief Randy Bruegman stated that the advisory from the came in the form of a conference call on May 19 with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the White House. In the call, DHS Secretary Tom Ridge advised that the upgraded threat level is being made in response to what authorities called “chatter,” which may suggest that terrorists could be planning “a major attack” inside the United States. The IAFC was asked to pass the alert information to the greater first responder community in an effort to keep all public safety organizations apprised of developments potentially affecting their communities.
To download the fire service's recommended actions for respective threat levels, go to www.iafc.org/downloads/hscoloralert.pdf.
The increase in the threat level will represent the third time since the system’s implementation last year that the threat indicator has been revised. The first time was Sept. 10, 2002, just before the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In each case, the time period during which the threat level remained at “high” was approximately three weeks.
Law enforcement officials said that they have no details of an impending attack on a specific target at this time, saying, “There is some chatter that points to the U.S., but we don’t really know if it is real.” However, the FBI made a point of warning state and local officials that recent attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, “may be a prelude to another attack in the United States,” particularly against “soft targets” in the United States. In previous alerts, these targets have been identified as “commercial buildings, hotels and other lightly secured locations.” The U.S. intelligence community has also previously indicated that al Qaeda might also seek economic targets including the “transportation and energy sectors as well as symbolic targets and symbols of American power.”
According to DHS officials, the timing of the advisory is being driven by recent intelligence reports that have monitored transmissions between suspected al Qaeda members, which one official referred to as "sufficient" to be of concern to local public safety and emergency responders.
In announcing the threat advisory, the DHS stated that the government does not recommend advising citizens to cancel any events or change their work or travel plans over the upcoming Memorial Day holiday or in the near future. Rather, officials asked that Americans continue with their activities of daily living—but with a heightened awareness of their surroundings and greater consideration for personal security.
In addition to the primary content in the advisory, the IAFC recommends that all fire chiefs also do the following:
Make contact with your law enforcement counterpart in your municipality to share information and review emergency response plans. Be prepared to brief your local elected officials and the local news media, if requested.
Be aware that the elevated alert level will trigger a series of security precautions by the federal government, as well as state and local governments to increase readiness to prevent terrorism, and plan accordingly.
Encourage all citizens in your communities to review their own families’ emergency response procedures to ensure that all family members know what to do, where to go and what their own emergency contingency plans are.
For more information on the Homeland Security Advisory, visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Web site at www.dhs.gov.
For citizen protection and preparedness recommendations, visit the Red Cross Web site at www.redcross.org
For information on the FBI Terrorist Threat Integration Center, go to www.fbi.gov .