What is Code Orange?
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, the government came up with a color-coded system to let people know how likely more attacks might be. There are five colors in the system, ranging from Green (a low risk of terrorism) to Red (severe risk). Two weeks ago, the government changed the level from Yellow, which is in the middle of the scale, to Orange, which is the second-highest level. Code Orange means a high risk of attack. The government raised the level because officials had received information about possible attacks by al Qaeda terrorists. Al Qaeda was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.
The nation has been on Code Orange once before, around the first anniversary of the attacks. There were no terrorist attacks then, and there have been no attacks since the level was changed on Feb. 7. So changing to Code Orange doesn't mean that something bad will happen.
How likely is another attack?
Unfortunately, nobody knows that. But changing the code from Yellow to Orange was a way to tell people that they should be thinking more about what they would do if there was an attack. It's difficult to know how likely it is that something bad will happen, but the government would rather be "safe than sorry." President Bush said the other day, "We're trying to protect you. We're doing everything we can to make sure the homeland is secure." He thinks it's very important that while we be aware, we also do the things we do every day: go to work, go to school, participate in plays and sports.
There has been a lot of talk about bottled water and storing food. What is that all about?
Think of it as the snowstorm way of thinking. When the weather forecasters were saying we'd get a foot of snow last weekend, people went out to buy toilet paper, bread, water and other things they would need in case they couldn't get out of the house for a few days.
If there were an attack, you might not be able to get out for a while, so some people are making sure they have the "essentials" to get them through such a time. Your parents might have bought extra batteries for a portable radio or flashlight. In our house, we're stocking up on Oreos.
Some schools are starting to have special safety drills. Why is that?
For the same reason you have fire drills in school, or that you might have an escape plan for getting out of your house in case of fire: Just to be prepared. You'll probably never have a fire in your school or house, but it's good to know what to do in case there is one. If you know what you're supposed to do, you're less likely to panic if something bad does happen.
Or think of it this way: Your parents keep bandages and medicine in the house not because you need them every day, but because it's good to have them when you do need them.
Just like the government is working hard to keep everyone safe, and your parents are working hard to keep you safe at home, teachers and principals are working hard to keep you safe at school.
This is very scary. What should I do?
If you're scared or worried, you should talk to your parents or teachers. Don't feel that you have to listen to the news on television or even read the paper (except of course for KidsPost). Know that your parents, teachers and government officials are thinking about lots of ways to keep you safe. It's just fine to decide that worrying about stuff like this is the grown-ups' job and that you should go on being a kid.
If you want to know what your family's plan is, ask your parents. Understand that different families will deal with this situation differently. If you're having trouble sleeping or concentrating on your homework, be sure to talk to your folks about that.
And remember, while these are scary times, other kids have lived through times a lot like these -- during and after World War II and during the Cuban Missile Crisis. You can read more about what life was like for kids during those times in the story below.
They've all been getting a lot of attention lately -- in the pages of the newspaper, on the television news and probably in your school and around your dinner table.
What does it all mean? Tracy Grant answers some of your questions. After you read this, you might want to talk about this more with your parents if you have other questions.
Despite Code Orange warnings, Roger Bailey brought daughters Catherine, left, and Olivia from New Orleans, Louisiana, to tour Washington last weekend.