As Seen In: USA Today, Discovery Channel, US News & World Report

Homeland Security Advisory System

The Homeland Security Advisory System was designed to provide a national framework and comprehensive means to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist acts to the following:

  • Federal, state, and local authorities
  • The private sector
  • The American people

This system provides warnings in the form of a set of graduated “threat conditions” that increase as the risk of the threat increases. Risk includes both the probability of an attack occurring and its potential gravity. Threat conditions may be assigned for the entire nation, or they may be set for a particular geographic area or industrial sector. At each threat condition, government entities and the private sector, including businesses and schools, would implement a corresponding set of “protective measures” to further reduce vulnerability or increase response capability during a period of heightened alert.

There are five threat conditions, each identified by a description and corresponding color. Assigned threat conditions will be reviewed at regular intervals to determine whether adjustments are warranted.

Threat Conditions and Associated Protective Measures

Image of the five threat conditions

There is always a risk of a terrorist threat. Each threat condition assigns a level of alert appropriate to the increasing risk of terrorist attacks. Beneath each threat condition are some suggested protective measures that the government, the private sector, and the public can take.

In each case, as threat conditions escalate, protective measures are added to those already taken in lower threat conditions. The measures are cumulative.

Citizen Guidance on the Homeland Security Advisory System

Green: Low Risk

  • Develop a family emergency plan. Share it with family and friends, and practice the plan. Visit www.Ready.gov for help creating a plan.
  • Create an “Emergency Supply Kit” for your household.
  • Be informed. Visit www.Ready.gov or obtain a copy of “Preparing Makes Sense, Get Ready Now” by calling 1-800-BE-READY.
  • Know where to shelter and how to turn off utilities (power, gas, and water) to your home.
  • Examine volunteer opportunities in your community, such as Citizen Corps, Volunteers in Police Service, Neighborhood Watch or others, and donate your time. Consider completing an American Red Cross first aid or CPR course, or Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) course.

Blue: Guarded Risk

  • Complete recommended steps at level green.
  • Review stored disaster supplies and replace items that are outdated.
  • Be alert to suspicious activity and report it to proper authorities.

Yellow: Elevated Risk

  • Complete recommended steps at levels green and blue.
  • Ensure disaster supplies are stocked and ready.
  • Check telephone numbers in family emergency plan and update as necessary.
  • Develop alternate routes to/from work or school and practice them.
  • Continue to be alert for suspicious activity and report it to authorities.

Orange: High Risk

  • Complete recommended steps at lower levels.
  • Exercise caution when traveling, pay attention to travel advisories.
  • Review your family emergency plan and make sure all family members know what to do.
  • Be Patient. Expect some delays, baggage searches and restrictions at public buildings.
  • Check on neighbors or others that might need assistance in an emergency.

Red: Severe Risk

  • Complete all recommended actions at lower levels.
  • Listen to local emergency management officials.
  • Stay tuned to TV or radio for current information/instructions.
  • Be prepared to shelter or evacuate, as instructed.
  • Expect traffic delays and restrictions.
  • Provide volunteer services only as requested.
  • Contact your school/business to determine status of work day.

*Developed with input from the American Red Cross.

Knowledge Check

  1. By following the instructions in this guide, you should now have the following:
    • A family disaster plan that sets forth what you and your family need to do to prepare for and respond to all types of hazards.
    • A disaster supplies kit filled with items you would need to sustain you and your family for at least three days, maybe more.
    • Knowledge of your community warning systems and what you should do when these are activated.
    • An understanding of why evacuations are necessary and what you would need to do in the case of an evacuation.
    • Identification of where the safest shelters are for the various hazards.
    • Compare the above actions with the personal action guidelines for each of the threat levels. Determine how well you are prepared for each of the five levels.
  2. What is the current threat level? ________________________________
    • Hint: To determine the current threat level, check your cable news networks or visit www.dhs.gov. Keep your family informed when changes in the threat level occur, and go over the personal actions you need to take.

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