Well, we won’t have that color chart to kick around anymore! The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning to retire the color-coded terrorism alert system, known officially as the Homeland Security Advisory System, the five-color scheme introduced by the Bush administration in March 2002 as part of Presidential Directive Three.
The DHS website describes the Homeland Security Advisory System as designed to guide protective measures when specific information to a particular sector or geographic region is received. It combines threat information with vulnerability assessments and provides communications to public safety officials and the public. The now fated Color-coded Threat Level System was supposed to communicate with public safety officials and the public at-large through a threat-based, color-coded system so that protective measures can be implemented to reduce the likelihood or impact of an attack. Red, the highest level, meant “severe risk of terrorist attacks.” The lowest level, green, meant “low risk of terrorist attacks.” Between those were blue (guarded risk), yellow (significant) and orange (high).
The color-coded threat levels were doomed to fail because “they don’t tell people what they can do — they just make people afraid,” said Bruce Schneier, an author on security issues. He said the system was “a relic of our panic after 9/11” that “never served any security purpose.”
The Homeland Security Department said the colors would be replaced with a new system — recommendations are still under review — that should provide more clarity and guidance. “The goal is to replace a system that communicates nothing,” the agency said, “with a partnership approach with law enforcement, the private sector and the American public that provides specific, actionable information based on the latest intelligence.” The department has already begun working toward the goal of providing more specific alerts.
Conan O’Brien joked, “Champagne-fuchsia means we’re being attacked by Martha Stewart.” Jay Leno said, “They added a plaid in case we were ever attacked by Scotland.”