Alerts & Notifications

Color-Coded Alert System Comes to an End

As color-coded system comes to an end, we look back at the creation of it.

by Rick Wimberly / January 31, 2011

As reported by Emergency Management here, the color-coded alert system is being replaced by the National Terror Advisory System in April.  As opposed to colors, the alert levels will be simply "imminent" or "elevated".  As they change, specific advisory information will either be distributed to first responder organizations or the general public, depending on the nature of the situation.

The color-coded system was ridiculed as being too vague, even in places like Saturday Night Live.  Those of us closer felt the ambiguity even more acutely.  The fact that an elevation in the color-code was made nationwide made it particularly troublesome to figure out what processes to put into place when the code was changed.  As a result, it wasn't really used.  Plans are for the new system to be geographically targeted.

Considering what the Department of Homeland Security was dealing with at the time (besides the fact that it really wasn't the Department of Homeland Security then), the color-coded system may have been right for the times.  We learned when we read Tom Ridge's book that a friend (and true public servant) came up with the idea.  Mike Byrne hadn't talked about it much before the book came out.  And, we posted here a few months back that he had "no regrets" about the color-coded system, despite the back lash.

We're glad the old system is being phased out, but at the same time, glad it was in place.  Had we experienced another major attack, it would have gotten people's attention and been very helpful.  Thankfully, it hasn't been used much...and hopefully the new system won't be either.

All the best,