Don't Panic! 

Terror tips for the terrified

A few times since Sept. 11, the government has issued vague warnings about terrorist threats and has asked us to be alert. What does that mean?

Unfortunately, even the government doesn't really know. A visit to the White House's Office of Homeland Security website ( offers little useful information about how citizens should react to the warnings. They promise to have some tips this week though. In the meantime, if you see a crop duster flying but no crops in the area, call the police.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has some terror tips on its website ( But a number of them -- e.g., suggesting that we keep flashlights, batteries and first-aid kits handy -- seem more useful for a slumber party than combating terrorism. (Making ghost faces with the flashlights might scare terrorists away though.). One FEMA website tip is alarming: "Learn about the different types of terrorist weapons, including explosives, kidnappings, hijackings, arson and shootings." Isn't an overly keen interest in weapons, explosions and hijackings one of the things we're supposed to be looking out for?

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is thinking about setting up a multi-level threat rating system for law enforcement similar to one the military uses. Shouldn't Ridge the also set up a threat-alert rating system for civilians, so that we know how to react? Here's my suggested rating system -- from lowest to highest threat -- along with suggested reactions:

Shit. Something bad might happen. You still have to go to work. But instead of actually working, send e-mails and make phone calls all day discussing how worried you are. Buy milk, bread and toilet paper on the way home. Have sex with someone you like.

Holy Shit. Something bad is for sure going to happen, so rent Mad Max and take careful notes. This is a good chance to tell everyone what you really think of them. Have sex with the person nearest you. Buy powdered milk, a water purifier and a shovel. Don't buy any unripe fruit.

Buh-bye. You're going to die very soon. Have sex with the person nearest you -- but make it quick.

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