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In times of crisis, an American tradition of sacrifice and action

Gestures have ranged from small to substantial

Homeland Security Secretary Ridge announced a nationwide terrrorism preparedness campaign Wednesday.
Homeland Security Secretary Ridge announced a nationwide terrrorism preparedness campaign Wednesday.

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  • Make a kit: Water and food, breathing masks, first aid items, medicines and other supplies may be among the things needed
    Kit components external link

  • Make a plan: The Department of Homeland Security recommends a family plan that includes a decision to stay or leave the home in an emergency, how to stay in touch if separated, and things to remember if you're in a car or building when an incident occurs
    Plan points external link

  • Be informed: Knowing how to respond to different types of emergency -- biological, chemical, radioactive, explosive -- can make a difference
    Types of emergency external link
    • Interactive: The hunt for al Qaeda
    • Audio slide show: Bin Laden's audio message, 2/03
    • Special report: Terror on tape
    • Special report: War against terror

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's admonition to the public to "be ready" in case of another terrorist attack falls in line with a history of Americans being asked to do something on behalf of their country.

    From turning down their thermostats during the 1970s energy crisis to sending the country's young off to bloody battlefields in times of war, Americans have responded to such calls time and again.

    Ridge's suggestions -- including that each family have an emergency kit ready -- seem to be more a matter of common sense than national sacrifice, tips that are familiar to people who have lived in earthquake zones and other regions prone to natural disasters.

    President Bush and administration figures repeatedly have called on Americans to help in the days following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Citizens have been asked to be aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious activity; Bush has exhorted Americans to donate to charities and help the needy. The president has called on men and women in uniform to prepare for battle, most recently as it relates to the confrontation with Iraq, which the administration has characterized as part of its war on terror.

    Other presidents also have called on Americans to do things for their government, measures that ran the gamut from substantial to symbolic.

    • President Carter called on citizens to "learn to waste less energy" when he outlined the energy crisis in 1977. One step? Turning down the thermostat to 65 degrees in the daytime and 55 degrees at night.

    • President Nixon also had his mind on energy when he asked Americans a few years earlier to drive slower, turn down the lights and, again, lower the thermostats.

    • President Franklin Roosevelt called on Americans repeatedly to sacrifice during World War II, whether it was shutting out lights so possible bombers couldn't see cities at night, investing in war bonds or practicing bomb drills in schools.

    • President Ford asked Americans to wear WIN (Whip Inflation Now) buttons to bolster America' sense that it could weather stormy economic times.

    Some Democrats said the Bush administration has to do more to help Americans understand their new responsibilities.

    "This administration has to do a lot better," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said, urging the president to provide more funding for homeland security.

    "They have to do a lot more than tell people that the responsibility is now on their shoulders."

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