NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, June 2003
Homeland Security on the Net
by Ira Wilsker
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There have been a lot of hoaxes and urban legends mixed with the facts about our current threat level, and things that we as citizens can do to protect ourselves. At a time like this, it is imperative that we get our important and critical information from reputable sources, and not from spam emails or rumormongers.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has set up a website at http://www.dhs.gov where the latest news and information on the topic can be found. A variety of topics are available from this official source, including information on the new “Operation Liberty Shield”. According to the DHS web page, “Liberty Shield is a unified operation that integrates selected national protective measures with the involvement of federal, state, local and private responders and authorities from around the country …. Operation Liberty Shield is a comprehensive national plan designed to increase protections for America's citizens and infrastructure while maintaining the free flow of goods and people across our border with minimal disruption to our economy and way of life. Operation Liberty Shield is a multi-department, multi-agency, national team effort.” Included in the “Liberty Shield” statement is information explicitly on increased security at our borders, stronger transportation protections, and ongoing measures to disrupt threats, greater protections for critical infrastructure and key assets, and increased public health preparedness. Detailed information about these and other important topics is available on the DHS site.

Many of us are justifiably concerned about possible personal threats from terrorists. From the “Threats & Protection” link on the DHS site is comprehensive information compiled from a variety of resources, including the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency (NSA), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Department of Defense, and other resources. On this web page is also information explaining the Homeland Security Advisory System, which, as I type this, is at “Orange – Threat Advisory High – High Risk of Terrorist Attacks”. Advisories are also posted on cyber-risks, and other public health and safety threats. Tips are available for home and community protection, schools, computer protection, and the mail service. Threats from biological, nuclear, and radiological resources are also included. Risks encountered by our telecommunications, power, water, and other utilities are discussed, as well as possible threats to our transportation system, and our agriculture. Financial threats, such as counterfeiting and credit card fraud, as well as identity theft and other financial threats are explained, and precautions to protect against such risks are disclosed. Potential threats to leadership and symbolic targets are posted.

An affiliated website from the DHS is online at http://www.ready.gov. With the heading “Terrorism forces us to make a choice. Don’t be Afraid – Be Ready”. This site contains a variety of personal protection resources, including emergency supplies, emergency planning, and information resources. Details on appropriate emergency supplies needed in an “Emergency Kit” include food and water, air quality and safety items, materials necessary for first aid, a supply checklist, and special needs items. The special needs’ listing includes items for babies, family medical needs such as prescriptions, contact lenses and accessories and eyeglasses, dental needs, and related materials. Some seniors and disabled individuals may also have special emergency requirements, such as communication and mobility necessities that must be provided for in times of emergency. Appropriate additional resources are listed, with links on the web page.

The necessity of an emergency family plan is explained, including information on what to do if a terrorist attack or natural disaster occurs while at home, school, in a vehicle, or in a high-rise building, with an emphasis on “common sense” planning. Information on decision making about whether to evacuate or stay at home in a time of crisis is also included.

Critical information on a variety of explicit threats, and what to do in the event those threats become reality is listed. The types of threats covered include biological, chemical, explosive, nuclear, and radiological.

For those wanting a detailed printed brochure on this information, the DHS has a comprehensive one available for download on the ready.gov website, titled "Preparing Makes Sense. Get Ready Now". This brochure is illustrated and in color, prepared in the Adobe PDF format, and suitable for local reproduction and distribution. Alternatively, the brochure is available for free in a published format by calling 1-800-237-3239.

If anyone is interested in being trained in dealing with these threats, or wishes to volunteer for community service, links are available on the ready.gov site.

Other useful and related official links are available on the ready.gov site. These links include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response (http://www.bt.cdc.gov), Department of Education Emergency Preparedness Plans for Schools (http://www.ed.gov/emergencyplan), the FBI (http://www.fbi.gov), Department of Health and Human Services Disasters and Emergencies (http://www.hhs.gov/disasters), Disaster and Terrorism Help (disasterhelp.gov), Environmental Protection Agency Emergency Preparedness (http://www.epa.gov/ebtpages/emergencies.html), Federal Emergency Management Agency (http://www.fema.gov), and other similar links.

Unlike any other major threat previously faced by our country, the Internet has now become a valuable resource of reliable information that may literally be lifesaving. As has been said many times in the past, “information is power”, and in this case, information may mean survival.

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