Preparing for a domestic attack

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 12, 2003

With the new orange threat level in place, citizens may be asking what they can do to help prevent an apocalyptic terrorist attack on the United States. On Friday, officials from the Office of Homeland Security provided some answers, telling hotel owners to inspect all cars and instructed representatives from malls and offices to prevent trucks from entering underground parking garages.

Federal officials further expounded on what to do when at "high alert" on Monday by recommending that Americans take disaster-preparation steps such as maintaining three-day stockpiles of food and water and obtaining duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal up a house in the event of a chemical or biological attack.

Troy Police officials referred citizens to the White House Web page ( for any information needs and to obtain survival information. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said that foresight could actually deter an attack.

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"Just being more ready, being more prepared, is a deterrent in and of itself," Ridge said.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D - SD) attacked the administration's call for Americans to buy duct tape Monday.

"This new admonition that people ought to go out and buy duct tape as a response falls far short, I think, of anyone’s expectation. It ought to be reconsidered. We have to do better than duct tape as our response to homeland defense," he said.

Still, Washington D.C.-area hardware stores reported a surge in sales of duct tape and plastic sheeting. But no such buying spree occurred in Troy, said local hardware store clerks.

Tara Huynh, a clerk at Ace Hardware, said she had sold some duct tape, but no more than usual. Sales personnel at Dunn's Hardware said they had not sold any tape at all and laughed at the impossibility of creating a vacuum seal around an entire house to keep out biological or chemical contaminants.

The White House tells Americans to "be aware of your surroundings," on its Web site and sagely instructs, "Do not be afraid to move or leave if you feel uncomfortable or if something does not seem right."

In case of a nuclear detonation, the White House instructs citizens not to look at the flash or fireball and encourages people to take cover as quickly as possible.

Life under Code Orange may not involve the Cold War "duck and cover drills" that live on in the fond memories of those alive during the 1950s, but the White House does encourage citizens to "avoid high profile or symbolic locations," and "exercise caution when traveling."

Last year the federal government warned that terrorists could immanently attack stadiums, nuclear power plants, shopping centers, synagogues, apartment buildings, subways, the Liberty Bell, the Brooklyn Bridge and other national landmarks. Americans were also told to be wary of small airplanes, fuel tankers and scuba divers.