WASHINGTON – A new terrorism alert system will soon be in place to let the public know how serious threats of attack are and to let cities and states know what to expect, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said.
The new system will have several alert levels. The highest alert will mean an attack is considered imminent.
If it works properly, Ridge said, the result will be that if the federal government raises the status of an alert a notch, "then you have to raise your preparedness, your response mechanism a notch."
"It's important that everybody buy into it and accept it," Ridge said.
In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the government issued four broad terror alerts that critics said alarmed the public while providing little or no useful information. The new system is described as a response to those complaints.
Ridge and his staff are working with federal, state and local officials, police chiefs and sheriffs to make the alerts more useful, the White House said.
"I may be the director of homeland security, but I can't tell the states and the local communities and the private sector that they have to use the system," Ridge told Fox News Channel last week. "So we're going to lay it out there, and say that this is what the federal agencies and the federal government are going to do."
"We want comments back from everybody — then we'll review it."
He said he expects to announce the plan by the end of the week.
"Hopefully the states and the local communities will buy into it," Ridge said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.