Homeland Security Advisory System

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Homeland Security Advisory System

Homeland Security Advisory System


Washington possesses one of the most comprehensive sets of guidelines for state government officials and agencies, local government entities, businesses and their citizens regarding the homeland security advisory system and threat level changes.

The Secretary of Homeland Security is the principal Federal official for domestic incident management. Pursuant to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Secretary is responsible for coordinating Federal operations within the United States to prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.


The Secretary shall coordinate the Federal Government's resources utilized in response to or recovery from terrorist attacks, major disasters, or other emergencies if and when any one of the following four conditions applies: (1) a Federal department or agency acting under its own authority has requested the assistance of the Secretary; (2) the resources of State and local authorities are overwhelmed and Federal assistance has been requested by the appropriate State and local authorities; (3) more than one Federal department or agency has become substantially involved in responding to the incident; or (4) the Secretary has been directed to assume responsibility for managing the domestic incident by the President. (5) Nothing in this directive alters, or impedes the ability to carry out, the authorities of Federal departments and agencies to perform their responsibilities under law.

• State Government Agencies and Offices of Elected Officials - This guide is designed to assist state agencies, regardless of size and complexity, in responding to changes in the threat alert level and serves as a checklist for those agencies.

• Tribal, County and Local Government - Emergency preparedness, continuity of government and the delivery of essential services are top priories for all elected officials and other government leaders. This guide outlines a logical system for determining what protective actions are appropriate for any jurisdiction.

• Businesses, Critical Infrastructure and Key Assets - Business leaders have an obligation to protect human and physical capital and to assure the continuity of business operations. This guide outlines a logical system for determining the protective actions appropriate for businesses and nonprofit organizations.

• Citizens, Neighborhoods and Families - Each citizen needs to anticipate and plan for terrorist-based threats and other large-scale emergencies.

All Federal departments and agencies shall cooperate with the Secretary in the Secretary's domestic incident management role. Despite all of the challenges, state and local officials have the flexibility to change their criteria for deciding when to raise or lower state systems. Likewise, protective measures and resources are determined by each state. This built-in flexibility allows states to determine their own appropriate levels and how best to spend their resources. How are states adapting the system to fit their needs and requirements? Eleven states have a state-level system that can differ from the federal government's advisory level, if they choose. Hawaii, for example, stayed at “yellow” each time the federal advisory system was raised to “orange.” Hawaii has a unique six-level advisory system, with “black” meaning ...
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