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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Ridge: 'We Can Be Afraid or We Can Be Ready'

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2003 -- Americans should stay informed of world events, but never surrender to fear, "because fear is the terrorists' most effective weapon," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said today.

Ridge today launched his department's "Ready Campaign," saying that even though officials can't predict an attack, ordinary citizens can do things to better prepare in case there is one.

The multiyear, multimedia information campaign was designed "to build a more prepared nation, one family, one neighborhood, one community at a time," Ridge said in a nationally televised address to the American Red Cross chapter in Cincinnati.

"The threat of terrorism forces us to make a choice: We can be afraid, or we can be ready," Ridge said. "And today America's families declare we will not be afraid and we will be ready."

The secretary recommended three main steps for families to take: Make an emergency preparedness kit, make a communication plan, and be informed.

Emergency preparedness kits should include such items as three days' worth of nonperishable food and water, flashlights, a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, and an adequate supply of required medications.

Officials recommend families with infants and young children keep an extra supply of diapers, infant formula and specialty foods on hand.

Of his recommendation to stash some duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal off living areas in case of a biological or chemical attack, Ridge explained, "Experts tell us that a safe room inside your house or inside your apartment can help protect you from airborne contaminants for several hours, and that could be enough time for that chemical agent to be blown away.

"We would not recommend these measures if they did not make a difference," he said. "All the same, we hope you never have to use them."

An emergency communication plan is equally vital. "Think about this: How often is every member of your family in your house at the same time?" Ridge said. For most families, not often, he posited. He suggested families, workplaces, schools and communities devise a plan and make sure all members know how to get in touch with each other.

Keeping informed of the situation and the best course of action to take will also help families stay safe. "An emergency is not time to plan, it's a time to react," Ridge said. "So be informed. Different types of attack require different responses."

He suggested individuals visit the Homeland Security Department's new Web site at www.ready.gov, or call 1-800-BEREADY for more information on how best to respond to emergencies.

The secretary acknowledged a raised threat level can cause more stress on families and on emergency workers, but it is necessary to focus people on what steps to take.

"Whatever the threat level may be on any given day, every family and every citizen will know that they have done their job if they take the time to be prepared," Ridge said.


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