- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

A heightened state of alert on the first anniversary of September 11 did not keep commuters from their appointed rounds at work, school and commemoration ceremonies for the victims of the terrorist attacks.

Roads, buses and subways were as full as usual during rush hours a day after the Bush administration raised the national alert status for the first time to code orange, the second-highest of the five levels.

"People should go to work. Everyone needs to pause to remember the people who died last year," Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said. "People seem to be going about their business."

"I was surprised by the traffic. People did not stay away from the city," U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers said.

Chiefs Ramsey and Chambers and other police officials said they knew of no threats against the city. The Metropolitan Police Department did not add officers on the streets, but U.S. Park Service and U.S. Capitol Police officers had to work longer shifts.

"We are always concerned about anniversary dates. We always take significant precautions," said U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Dan Nichols, who said all officers were working 12-hour shifts.

Metro saw a small drop in the number of subway riders, with 308,762 passengers by 2 p.m. yesterday compared with 321,664 a week earlier. Last year, when the city was evacuated after terrorists crashed hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the system had 394,991 riders by 2 p.m.

"Our ridership is down, but that is a drop in the bucket," said spokeswoman Cheryl Johnson.

"It seems real quiet to us because people appear in a reflective mood. Certainly, national alerts sober some people."

In the Metropolitan Police Department's Joint Operations Command Center, officers were using surveillance cameras to monitor a van parked at Union Station.

By the time Capitol Police officers could respond, a man opened the back of the truck and began unloading boxes.

Local and federal police and governmental agencies use the facility, with its 14 cameras, to monitor most areas of the city, including the Pentagon, the White House and the Capitol.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) approved its regional emergency plan, designed to improve coordination among emergency management, public works, health, transportation and communications.

The main tool is the Regional Incident Communication and Coordination System, a network of computers, pagers and cellular telephones to alert officials about emergencies.

The system will allow officials to share information within 30 minutes.

If there is a need to evacuate large numbers of people from the District, regional officials will consider making highways one way and commandeering up to 7,000 buses from school systems, to supplement the region's public transit.

Officials also may encourage impromptu carpooling by banning the movement of cars without passengers in evacuation zones.

The 425-page Regional Emergency Coordination Plan was adopted unanimously by COG's board of directors.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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