Homeland defense drives citizens to Web

The Bush administration unveils Ready.gov as a touchstone for a massive public-awareness campaign to prepare Americans for a potential terrorist attack.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
2 min read
The Bush administration unveiled Ready.gov on Wednesday as a touchstone for a massive public-awareness campaign to prepare Americans for a potential terrorist attack.

The Department of Homeland Defense kicked off a $100 million campaign in the form of print, radio, direct mail and outdoor advertisements that will feature the Web site. The site, whose motto is "Don't be afraid. Be ready," offers information, tutorials and checklists on how to protect oneself in the event of biological, chemical or nuclear threats.

The campaign was launched in response to the Department of Homeland Security's growing, perceived threat of terrorism in the United States. In the last two weeks, the department put the nation on high alert against potential warfare for the second time since the suicide bombings of Sept. 11, driving many people to hardware stores to buy duct tape and water.

"While this department and organizations around the country work hard every day to prevent terrorist attacks and strengthen our national protection, individual citizens can help too," Tom Ridge, U.S. Department of Homeland Security secretary, said in a statement. He introduced the campaign and Web site Wednesday morning at the Cincinnati American Red Cross.

Security is also a big issue in operating the Web site. Ruder Finn Interactive, which developed the site in partnership with the Advertising Council, teamed up with security firm International Networking Services (INS) to ensure that the site would be safe against potential hackers or a cyberterrorism attack. INS has a team overseeing the site's security at all times, according to Steve Bergman, program manager for INS. He said it was built using National Security Alliance guidelines.

Producers for the site said they built it with the knowledge that many people flock to the Web in a crisis. They evaluated traffic levels for some of the highest profile sites during the Sept. 11 attacks and the recent NASA flight explosion, including CNN.com and NASA.org, to model the site's performance capabilities.

"It was designed to perform well at the highest expectation of Web sites," said Brad McCormick, product manager at Ruder Finn. He said the site was build in about three months.

The organizations plan to update the site in coming months with local information such as evacuation plans in the top U.S. cities in the case of an attack. They also plan to create versions of it in other languages including Arabic. As part of the campaign, the U.S. Postal Service will send out brochures to every American. All of the ads will direct people to call 1-800-BE-READY to access a free brochure or visit the Web site.