WASHINGTON – Be prepared. Just in case.
In the age of terrorist attacks, that advice isn't just for children. Law enforcement officials, raising the threat level Friday, handed it out to parents in particular. A little advance planning, they say, could protect families and property if an attack knocks out access to home, food and money.
First on any to-do list: "Take the time now to get informed," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said.
Ridge specifically urged Americans to arrange a way for family members to contact each other—such as through an out-of-town relative — and designate a meeting place in case telephone service is knocked out by an attack.
"I think it would make family members a lot more comfortable if they knew they were able to get in touch with one another in the event something happened," Ridge told reporters.
Americans with more time to prepare might check out the government's guidelines on assembling a "disaster plan" taking other steps to protect people and property at nominal expense. Such a guide can be found at www.fema.gov.
Top tips include:
—Identify two meeting places: One near home and the second away from the neighborhood in case home cannot be approached.
—Find out the emergency response plans of employers, school, daycare and other officials. To where would they evacuate workers and students? Write down the answers and keep a copy in your wallet.
—Keep life, property, health and other insurance policies current, and know their terms. Store copies of these and other important documents — identification, deeds, wills, a small amount of cash — in a watertight container.
—Have a plan for pets, since shelters do not allow them.
—Assemble a "disaster supply kit" and keep it in a designated place where it is ready to "grab and go." It should include bottled water, food and emergency supplies, perhaps kept in backpacks or duffel bags.
—With guidance from doctor or pharmacist, store prescription drugs and an extra set of prescription glasses.
—First aid kit.