States step up terrorism info

Arizona Division of Emergency Management

With terrorism a major focus in America these days, state emergency management

agencies—accustomed to providing information about natural disasters

—are expanding their Web sites to better inform citizens about terrorism's

potential dangers.

From listing links to outlining what to do in case of an emergency,

agency Web sites have become a stepping stone for many people seeking more

information about terrorism and being ready for further attacks, said representatives

from several state agencies.

Some representatives said they had information about terrorism posted

before the attacks, but saw a need to augment it.

"It has been there, but after Sept. 11, we did recognize the need to

enhance the Web site and put more information on that Web site so Floridians

and other citizens can access that," said Ann Rowe, spokeswoman for the

Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Florida's site recommends that people have a family disaster plan in

place, which includes rally points—where the family can physically meet

if separated—and a disaster supply kit. Its site, like many other state

sites, provides links to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American

Red Cross and other groups.

In Virginia, where the Pentagon was attacked Sept. 11, the Department

of Emergency Management posted news releases on how the state was handling

the situation, said Janet Clements, the department's director of public

affairs. The agency also set up an electronic sign-up system for people

to receive news releases. Department officials had speculated that media

outlets would be the primary users of the service, but Clements said many

citizens and businesses also used it.

She said many people have been e-mailing the agency, asking for additional

information. That, she said, tells her that people are viewing the Web site

more. She said the site has "proven its weight, being a really viable and

important way to communicate to all our audiences in an unfiltered way."

In Arizona, Karen Paulsen, assistant director for the state Division

of Emergency Management, said the agency has added information to its site

in response to phone calls and inquiries from the public. "It's made people

aware of our role...perhaps [that] wasn't there before," she said.

She added that agency officials have been pitching the Web site address

on several recent radio talk shows.

Maria Smith, spokeswoman for Pennsylvania's Emergency Management Agency,

said her state has been working on terrorism planning for a long time and

has recently received a lot of e-mail messages regarding the subject. She

said people, including reporters, are asking about gas masks. Agency officials

are forming a response to that subject, she said, adding that they're recommending

against people buying them.

Pennsylvania also plans to link all the state agency Web sites to a

central repository of emergency information, although she said officials

have only just begun talking about that.

But despite all the information regarding terrorism, state representatives

said there's just no way to really prepare for terrorism.

"In the case of terrorism, it's not the same," Clements said. "It is

very, very different. The place and time and the agent is unknown, and because

of those three issues, it's difficult to get a laundry list of information."

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