Red Cross offers terror-response plan

An effort to help the average citizen get informed.

By: Gwen Runkle
   WEST WINDSOR — When the national Office of Homeland Security recently created a color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System, the objective was to give the public an easy way to identify five levels of threat or risk of a terrorist attack.
   But while the nation has been under a yellow alert, otherwise known as an elevated risk of terrorist attack, since March, the warning hasn’t meant much to the general public — mainly because explanations for how to prepare were geared toward government agencies instead of the public, according to officials from the American Red Cross.
   So in an effort to help the average citizen get informed, American Red Cross has developed a complimentary set of guidelines for individuals, families, neighborhoods, schools and businesses in coordination with the Office of Homeland Security.
   Kevin Sullivan, the chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Central New Jersey, unveiled the project and the available information, including a brochure, "Terrorism: Preparing for the Unexpected," at a press conference Thursday.
   "Steps help people stay calm," Mr. Sullivan said. "We found that after Sept. 11 people needed to do something, but they weren’t sure what. This gives them definite steps and actions to take.
   "For families, one of the things we believe is critical is that family members have contact numbers. Everyone should know how to get in touch with their child or spouse immediately," he continued.
   Families also should look into creating a family disaster supply kit and family disaster plan, he said.
   A supply kit should include items like water, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, tools and supplies, clothing and bedding and special items like baby supplies, games, books and important family documents.
   A disaster plan would help a family stay calm in an emergency by establishing whom to contact, what to do and where to go.
   As far as the Homeland Security Advisory System is concerned, Mr. Sullivan said there are several things families should be doing in the current stage of yellow alert or elevated risk of terrorist attack.
   Families should be on the lookout for suspicious activity to report to the proper authorities, make sure their disaster supply kits are stocked and ready, check contact numbers, know school plans for emergency contacts or evacuation and develop alternate routes to and from school or work.
   For more information check the American Red Cross of Central New Jersey’s Web site,, or call Paul Carden, the chapter’s director of emergency services, at (609) 951-8550.