Calm, Not Clamor

The latest elevated terror alert has come, thankfully, with more specifics from various government agencies about what citizens can do to prepare for a range of possible attacks.

Unfortunately, some public reaction has been less than rational. Stores in some areas have been wiped clean of water and duct tape, for instance. Some TV networks have not helped by going beyond simply advising caution and giving useful tips to fanning a sense of fear and panic.

The alert seems necessary following more specific intelligence reports from increasing "chatter" picked up in the Al Qaeda network, combined with a Muslim holiday this week, an impending war with Iraq, and the latest threatening tape allegedly made by Osama bin Laden.

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Panic and worry are precisely the types of behavior terrorists desire. To counter that, the Department of Homeland Security plans soon to make a more concerted public information effort to reach all Americans.

That's a welcome development. Right now, people must be proactive to track down even the most basic survival information, by calling certain telephone numbers, logging on to the Internet, or contacting various government offices, for instance.

If local or federal governments have suggestions to increase safety, they should not put the burden on citizens to find it. Better for the Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with local governments, to mail useful information to each household. That will be a step above the scattered efforts seen thus far.

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