Cities in gray area over color-coded alerts, study says

| 3/7/2003

Many cities are still trying to figure out what it means when the Department of Homeland Security changes its color-coded threat level, according to a survey by the National League of Cities.

Most cities and towns reacted to the Feb. 7 homeland security orange alert announcement with increased concern, but 40 percent reported their reaction was no change, according to a recent NLC survey of 402 cities.

Last September, when the National League of Cities surveyed cities after the first increase to an orange-level alert, 67 percent reported increased concern, and 33 percent reported no change.

Among cities surveyed over the past week, 72 percent said they find the homeland security alert system to be useful. Twenty-eight percent said it was not useful.

Also, 66 percent of the cities and towns said they knew what to do in response to an orange alert, while 5 percent said they did not know what to do, and 29 percent said more guidance from the federal government was needed.

"American cities and towns appreciate the information about possible terrorist threats that the federal government is sharing," said John DeStefano Jr., NLC president and mayor of New Haven, CT.

"But the real challenge is the ability to assure Americans that when they punch 9-1-1 on the phone, they will have local police, fire and other emergency departments that are adequately equipped, trained and prepared to respond. That need remains unmet 17 months after the September 11 attacks, and we are still seeking the partnership and resources from the federal government to make that happen."