"This comprehensive, national plan of action will help protect our citizens, our infrastructure, and very importantly deter those who plan further terror attack," said Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security.
Ridge announced Tuesday that the national threat level had been raised to orange and Operation Liberty Shield is underway. He said this initiative incorporates all levels of government from cities and counties to state and national authorities.
In east Mississippi, Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith said his city is as ready as it can be.
"Any municipality has to look to protect the water supply, the infrastructure, the airport, and help protect the military installations that are close by," said Smith. "Meridian fits all those categories."
Meridian's Chief Administrative Officer Ken Storms said there are no threats to the city right now, but Meridian's resources are serving a support role.
"This is all preparatory, we're in a support role," Storms said.
In Philadelphia this week, Mississippi's first responders are meeting to learn how to better react to emergencies on the local and state levels.
School systems are also preparing. Meridian superintendent Dr. Janet McLin said every effort is being made to protect students.
"We're having school as usual, but we're ready in case there is some kind of catastrophic event to protect our children", said McLin.
As the nation prepares for war with Iraq, officials say Operation Liberty Shield will need all U.S. citizens to help defend the homeland.
Dr. Habib Bazyari, Dean of Business at the University of West Alabama
and longtime expert on Iraq and Iran, said Saddam Hussein will likely
try to continue playing world opinion against the United States.
"He's going to stall as long as he can, hoping maybe the United States will get discouraged. But he's got a tough task," said Bazyari.
Will the war spurt more terrorism or reduce the threat from the Arab world?
"Probably initially if Saddam has any cells in the United States, he's going to make some trouble for us," said Bazyari. "After Saddam is gone, that aura of terror and repression and all that he used on his people is going to be lifted and we're not going to see any problems from Saddam again."
As you would expect, the President has solid support on his Iraq policy from Republican members of Congress.
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that, in a post 9/11 world, the U.S. can't afford to wait for its enemies to strike first.
"We must remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. His regime poses an immediate danger to the United States and the security of our people. I believe we either fight him today on our terms or fight
him later on his terms, where he will more likely have the nuclear
bomb," said Shelby.
Senate Democrat leader Tom Daschle has a different view. He said the President has "failed miserably" at diplomacy. The minority leader said an example of that shortcoming is Bush's inability to get Canada or Mexico to back the U.S. approach.
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Homeland Security Advisory System Recommendations for Individuals
Severe – Red
High – Orange
Elevated – Yellow
Guarded – Blue
Low – Green
Source: http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/beprepared/hsas/individual.pdf (The American Red Cross Web site) contributed to this report.