Domestic Security Chief Tom Ridge Monday unveiled a color-coded terrorist assessment system and said the nation currently faces a yellow alert, which means there's a "significant risk" of danger.
The five-level system was put in place in response to public complaints about government warnings issued since September 11 that raised terrorism fears, but contained little guidance.
The threat condition system intends to ensure that local governments prepare citizens, emergency response teams and the private sector, Ridge said. Hundreds of local police agencies were notified today of the yellow alert and of the new system.
Ridge said America is at yellow alert because the al-Qaeda network is trying to re-group after American and coalition victories in Afghanistan and because the network has successfully placed some of its agents inside the United States.
Under the system, red means a "severe risk" of attack that may require the re-positioning of trained teams, closing public and government facilities and monitoring transportation systems.
Orange means a high risk of attack where government coordinates necessary security efforts with armed forces or law enforcement agencies. It also calls for additional precautions at public events.
Yellow is an elevated condition with a significant risk of attack that calls for increasing surveillance of critical locations and putting emergency response plans in place.
Blue is a general risk where agencies would review and update emergency response procedures. Green is a low risk of attack.
Federal agencies are now using the alert system, and Ridge is urging state and local governments to use the same approach. Ridge announced the system Monday at a meeting of the National League of Cities. The U.S. Attorney General will be responsible for developing, implementing and managing the system.
A White House statement said, "The Attorney General will develop a system for conveying relevant information to federal, state and local officials, and the private sector expeditiously. Heightened threat conditions can be declared for the entire nation, or for a specific geographic area, functional or industrial sector."