Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2002

A day before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, federal officials on Tuesday raised the level of alert to "high," one step below the highest level.

Officials have received credible threats, particularly to U.S. embassies overseas, but they urged Americans to continue their plans to mark the anniversary while they are cautious of suspicious activity.

"For individual Americans, every citizen – we know this is a very sobering moment – just as federal, state and local officials are taking precautions, we certainly recommend and think there's some common sense measures that would enhance their security interests," said Tom Ridge, director of homeland security, at a joint press conference with U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The "high" alert – orange on the color-coded scale of threats – denotes a high risk of terrorist attacks and calls for coordinated security efforts among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies; additional precaution at public events; preparations to work at alternative sites or with a dispersed workforce; and restricted access to threatened facilities with essential personnel only.

In Alabama, officials at the state Emergency Management Agency in Clanton were taking precautions.

Scott Adcock, spokesman for Alabama's EMA, said the threats received are not specific.

"We are contacting all the county EMA offices and letting them know that our staff is in place and on standby," Adcock said. "(We are in the) process of contacting the state agencies that we work with and the emergency coordinators making sure they are prepared and standing by as well. All of this … just in case."

Adcock said the EMA staff would remain on standby as long as the elevated alert level is in place.

While the threats appear to be concentrated on overseas targets, officials said they are similar to the threats heard in intelligence before Sept. 11, 2001.

"We take every threat seriously. The threats that we have heard recently remind us of the pattern of threats that we heard prior to September 11," President Bush said.

At the press briefing, Ashcroft explained the specificity of previous threats.

"One of the characteristics of the pre-9/11 period from a year ago was that there was a lot of traffic, if you will, that related to conventional terrorist activities, and yet very shortly thereafter,or in the virtual same time frame, dramatically new unheard of activities were engaged in," Ashcroft said. "So we believe that we know from our intelligence activities that have been well-reported that the terrorist community has been very active in a wide variety of terrorism potentials, and while car bombs are a very significant part – car bombs, truck bombs, explosive devices – we also know that the terrorist community has been interested, and al-Qaida in specific, and their associates have been interested in a wide range of terrorist devices."

Vice President Dick Cheney has been moved to a secret, secure location, and he cancelled a Tuesday night speech. About two dozen diplomatic posts around the world were closed because of threats.

Andalusia Police Chief Wilbur Williams Jr. addressed the issue of security at the city's Sept. 11 observation. set for noon today on the Square.

"We are not planning any (extra heightened acts of security), but we do plan to have our officers close by and visible. I know some (agencies) have heightened security, but we are not going to be on high alert and I have asked my officers to simply be vigilant and extremely observant.

"We want to make sure our officers are visible and close by, but we are not going to get into anything that might scare people."

Stan J. Griffin contributed to this story.