Homeland opens Ready.gov home page

The Homeland Security Department turned to private funding and an Internet company to create Ready.gov, a federal Web site that gives tips on what to do in case of a terrorist attack.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge unveiled the site Feb.19, one week ahead of schedule, because of heightened terrorist threats, according to Scott Schneider, senior vice president and director of Ruder Finn Interactive, a business unit of public relations company Ruder Finn Inc.

"The site is not meant to talk about a specific threat. It really wants to send you to other places for that," Schneider said. But the site does suggest that a family put together an emergency plan and figure out how to communicate in the event of a biological, chemical, nuclear or dirty bomb attack.

The site (www.ready.gov) received 2.5 million visitors in its first 24 hours of operation.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation financed the site's development for an undisclosed amount of money. The foundation is working with the Advertising Council Inc. to develop an ad campaign for the Homeland Security Department.

The site has been in development for more than a year, and it has been tested by focus groups in Baltimore and New York City. Although the site provides information for citizens, it does not provide "alerts" in the event of a threat. That information would come from other agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Schneider.

The Web site complies with Section 508, a law requiring federal Web sites to accommodate users with disabilities. Ruder Finn Interactive also plans versions of the Web site in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and French.

Brad McCormick, senior producer for Ruder Finn Interactive, said the company has been working with two other vendors to develop top-level security. He declined to talk about where the site's server is located or how the security works.

"There are a lot of people out there that want to deface this site, hack into it," McCormick said.

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