- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

The Metropolitan Police Department yesterday recommended private organizations prepare responses to any terrorist attack on the Washington area.
The police said businesses, schools, hotels and other organizations should develop plans to evacuate during risk of imminent conventional explosion, or shelter people inside their buildings during a chemical or biological attack.
"Normal has been redefined in our society, and I don't see that changing anytime soon," Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey told representatives of about 200 organizations at the Capital Hilton Hotel. The meeting was hosted by the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
The federal government on Friday raised the risk alert for a terrorist attack to Code Orange, the second-highest level.
Chief Ramsey suggested that organizations inside large, multilevel buildings appoint "floor captains" to turn off ventilation systems during a chemical, biological or radiological attack. Ventilation systems could draw outdoor contaminants inside the building.
"Sometimes going outside is the last thing you want to do," Chief Ramsey said.
The organizations also should set up "telephone trees," in which five to 10 employees call others to notify them of an emergency.
Police would broadcast the nature of the emergency on local television and radio channels.
"People need to know how to take care of themselves until we can get to you," Chief Ramsey said.
He said he would expect initial confusion but warned against frantic responses, such as parents rushing to schools to pick up their children.
"I know it's not going to be clean; it's not going to be pretty," he said.
Chief Ramsey said parking garages, mail deliveries and employee-identification badges should be monitored closely, that doors should remain locked as much as possible and that police should be notified about suspicious packages.
FBI Agent Van Harp said Washington is the best-protected city in the United States, but it also is at the greatest risk.
"These threats come in from all over the world," Mr. Harp said. "Washington, D.C., and New York are always mentioned."
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI has increased the number of its counterterrorism squads from four to 10. The squads have discovered sophisticated terrorist strategies, Mr. Harp said.
"It's astounding the education level of some of these people who want to cause us harm," he said.
Some school officials expressed concern about sheltering hundreds or even thousands of students during an attack.
However, officials at St. John's College High School, which provides military-school training for about half its 900 students, said the plans Mr. Ramsey announced merely repeated those they initiated last year.
"A lot of us are former military," said Iris Coleman, St. John's' dean of students. "We try to stay ahead of the times."
A SunTrust Bank official said the bank planned an evacuation drill at one of its branches close to the White House.
Chief Ramsey recommended that the bank notify police immediately before the drill to avoid a false alarm.

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