- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Increased airspace restrictions over the Washington region went into effect yesterday for private aircraft as the federal government urged residents to follow guidelines on how to respond to a terrorist attack.
Officials said the restrictions keep local airports open in the wake of Friday's increase in the nation's security threat level. The "air defense identification zone" is a 30-mile radius around the city, 18,000 feet above the ground and affects three Maryland airports: College Park, Hyde and Potomac Airfield.
"Terrorists are known to favor targets in the transportation sector and to consider our civil aviation system an arsenal of improvised weapons," said James M. Loy, Transportation Security Administration undersecretary. "The Washington capital region is home to a number of particularly symbolic targets which must be protected."
The new measures subject all private aircraft, as well as their pilots and passengers, to inspections before departing an area airport. Before landing in the area, planes will be diverted to Lee Airport in Annapolis for security screening.
Pilots are being required to maintain two-way radio communications, use a transponder and discrete beacon code, file flight plans and follow standard air-traffic procedures before entering the restricted zone.
"Instead of just being a blip on an air-traffic controller's screen, it allows air-traffic controllers to identify exactly which aircraft it is," said Laura Brown, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman.
The air restrictions do not affect commercial air traffic.
On Friday, the Homeland Security and Justice departments raised the national security alert level from yellow to orange, which signifies a "high" risk of a terrorist attack.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said yesterday that the "interpretation" that the threat level was increased in anticipation of war with Iraq is incorrect. Mr. Ridge said the increase was based on information obtained from al Qaeda members.
"The threat is real," Mr. Ridge said on CBS' "The Early Show."
Mr. Ridge said the orange alert is in response to the "most significant" threat the country has faced since September 11.
Additionally, enhanced security measures are taking effect at all 429 of the nation's commercial airports.
"Some of the changes will be very evident," said Brian Doyle, Transportation Security Administration spokesman. "At some of the airports, the amount of parking space might be reduced. Random searches of vehicles will be increased in and around airport facilities. You're also going to see more law-enforcement officers present."
Transportation Security Administration personnel are searching trunks and passenger compartments of vehicles approaching airports within 300 yards. Large vehicles, such as vans and trucks, get the closest scrutiny.
"Apparently, the initial focus is on trucks," said Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which oversees Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport.
Other security increases will be less obvious, such as more frequent checks of employee identification.
Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is urging residents to be prepared for a terrorist attack and keep "disaster kits" in their homes that include a cellular phone, batteries, battery-operated radio and flashlights.
Duct tape, scissors and plastic should be kept on hand to cover doors and windows to block out hazardous chemical or biological agents. "To save critical time during an emergency, sheeting should be pre-measured and cut for each opening," said the tips from "Are you Ready? A Guide to Citizen Preparedness." The guide can be found online at www.fema.gov
"The goal is to remind people to take some steps ahead of time to prepare them for any sort of incident," said Lara Shane, FEMA spokeswoman.

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