Originally created 02/20/03

Homeland security chief: be prepared but don't panic



CINCINNATI -- Telling Americans to be ready for terrorist attacks, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge launched a public-relations campaign Wednesday that offers families a few basic steps to prepare for the worst.

The message: Have a communications plan so the family can get in touch during an emergency; put together a disaster kit with a few days of critical supplies, and know where to turn for information during a crisis.

"We will not be afraid. We will be ready," said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who traveled to Cincinnati to announce the program and meet with local safety and emergency workers. "Make a kit; have a plan; get informed."

Homeland Security officials said the campaign launch has been a year in the making and not tied to the orange - "High" - terrorism alert that began more than a week ago.

Officials said they crafted the campaign to avoid scaring people while providing some commonsense ideas that will help families find and care for each other when normal government and emergency services aren't available.

Many of these steps are worth taking to prepare for natural disasters, as well, officials said.

This includes stashing a three-day supply of water, food and medicine, Ridge said. Among other things, the government-recommended "kit" also includes duct tape and plastic sheeting Ridge said could be used to seal off a room in the event of a chemical or biological release.

"Stash away the duct tape - don't use it!" Ridge said.

With shades of the duck-and-cover campaigns of the Cold War, the Homeland Security blitz will include television public-service announcements and fliers that will be distributed with Yellow Pages phone directories.

Brochures can be obtained at post offices or by calling 1-800-Be-Ready. Also, a new web site, www.ready.gov, is online.

The television spots will feature Ridge prominently, along with some New York City firefighters, police officers and other emergency workers.

The trip to Ohio marks Ridge's second public engagement outside of Washington since taking over the nascent Homeland Security department. The previous trip was to Florida, another key electoral state.

The Ad Council - the nonprofit group that came up with Smokey Bear's "Only you can prevent forest fires" and McGruff the crime dog's "Take a bite of crime" - helped put together the campaign.

The ads don't seem to have a single catch phrase, although most of them include the words, "Be ready."

The Martin Agency, an advertising firm in Richmond, Va., developed the multimedia campaign pro bono, according to Homeland Security officials.

Be Ready Campaign

The Department of Homeland Security launched a its "Ready Campaign" encouraging Americans to take some basic steps to prepare for a terrorist attack or disaster.

It recommends people keep an emergency supply kit with the following items:

-Three days worth of non-perishable food and water

-Flashlights

-Battery-powered radio

-Extra batteries

-Blanket

-First-aid kit

-Medicine

-Manual can opener

-Duct tape and pre-measured plastic sheeting (to seal a room for several hours during a chemical or biological attack)

On the Net:

Ready Campaign: www.ready.gov

Department of Homeland Security: www.dhs.gov