Now that Washington is on a terrorism high alert and war with Iraq appears imminent, I find D.C. police cruisers' display of red and blue lights during routine, nonemergency patrols disturbing, no matter how well-intentioned. Lights and sirens on official vehicles unfortunately took on a sinister new meaning after Sept. 11, 2001.

While it's certainly good to be aware of our police at work, the light displays ratchet up the fear factor.

I hope D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey will reconsider this regrettable policy -- soon.




The current emergency alert signaling system over the airwaves is insufficient.

I work at night and sleep during the day. On Sept. 11, 2001, I did not know we had been attacked until I woke up and found eight phone messages from friends and relatives calling to check on me because I live in Northern Virginia near the Pentagon.

Why not bring back the air siren system? It is the fastest way to inform many people of an imminent threat. Why not have designated shelters that people could go to when they heard the air siren?




I was in Jerusalem when the Persian Gulf War started and witnessed the efficient free distribution of gas masks, kits containing several injections to counter bioterrorism agents, and plastic sheeting and tape with instructions on how to seal a room. Citizens were instructed on how to self-administer the injections and how to tell which ones to administer.

In contrast, Americans have been given no gas masks and no injections. Plastic sheeting and duct tape have sold out in many hardware stores. On "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," a representative of U.S. firefighters said that firefighters have been given no means of testing for chemical or biological weapons, no gas masks and no hazardous-materials suits.

President Bush could have taken a lesson from Israel on this one.