Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Ridge to debut 'Ready Campaign' here



By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge will flesh out the details of his new citizen preparedness campaign in a Cincinnati visit Wednesday morning, his office confirmed Monday.

Ridge will speak to 200 to 300 local volunteers, emergency workers and elected officials at 10:30 a.m. at the American Red Cross' downtown Cincinnati chapter, Assistant Press Secretary Rachel Sunbarger said. The national president of the Red Cross, Marsha Johnson Evans, will be on hand.

Ridge is coming to debut his Ready Campaign, a national effort to educate individuals and businesses about how they can protect themselves. It goes beyond duct tape - recommended by other officials last week for families' emergency supply kits - to telling people where they can find answers to their questions, he said Friday. The campaign will include television and print ads as well as a new Web site.

Gary Miller, director of disaster services for Cincinnati's Red Cross chapter, welcomes both the VIP visit and the message. The chapter is fielding a lot of calls from worried residents, he said, and has even begun offering a class on preparing for the unexpected.

"Anything to try to make things a little clearer," Miller said.

The Ready Campaign is kicking off as the United States edges closer to striking Iraq - a prospect that has increased security concerns internally. America's risk of attack was raised from elevated (yellow) to high (orange) earlier this month, although Ridge said Sunday it will probably be lowered soon.

The preparedness effort also has applications beyond foreign threats, Sunbarger noted.

"A lot of the things we're talking about are helpful in a natural disaster or a terrorist attack," she said.

Ridge's visit Wednesday will be short. He is scheduled to land at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport at 9 a.m. and meet privately with a smaller group of volunteers before speaking. He is likely to hear pleas from Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune and emergency officials for more money for items such as emergency sirens.

Ridge last visited Cincinnati a year ago.

E-mail candrews@enquirer.com




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