Terror Alert System Updated by Homeland Security

April 20, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly (L) looks on as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano discusses the new National Terrorism Advisory System on April 20, 2011 at Grand Central Station in New York City.  (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly (L) looks on as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano discusses the new National Terrorism Advisory System on April 20, 2011 at Grand Central Station in New York City. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced on April 20 the implementation of a new, two-level terror alert system that is to be replacing the old color-coded system. The new system, the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS), will go into effect next week. It replaces the often-mocked color coded alert system.

NTAS consists of two levels that indicate either an imminent threat, specifying “a credible, specific, and impending terrorist threat”, or an elevated threat, designating “a credible terrorist threat”, stated Homeland Security in a press release.

The color coding system had been used following the events on 9/11, and was often criticized for being confusing and vague. The new system will be “a system that gives people specificity, tells them what to do, what to prepare, what to look for and how to get more information,” Napolitano said on MSNBC’s Today.

The NTAS alerts will be specific in announcing what “geographic region, mode of transportation, or critical infrastructure” the threat applies to, as well as “providing timely, detailed information to the public,” stated the press release. NTAS alerts will be distributed using social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as traditional news media to reach a broader spectrum of the public.

Napolitano also revealed that under the old system, U.S. airports “have been orange since 2006.” The new system will additionally have a “sunset provision” that automatically ends the alerts after two weeks, unlike the previous alerts that had no expiration deadlines.