Terrorist groups may target places frequented by tourists. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is charged with protecting the nation from security threats. Travelers encounter DHS agents at border crossings, where DHS is responsible for securing transportation systems, checking travelers' documents, securing travelers and their luggage, ensuring an efficient screening process, and managing the Trusted Traveler programs that provide expedited travel for pre-approved, low-risk travelers. In addition to monitoring local news, travelers may check for DHS alerts to current threats on its National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) site at www.dhs.gov/files/programs/ntas.shtm.
In race relations, the social and economic progress of half a century ago have stagnated, leaving bitterness on both sides of the economic divide that continues to separate whites from blacks and Hispanics. Of the 932 hate groups monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center, most espouse a racist agenda.
Some racial conflict centers around illegal immigration from Latin America. Twelve percent of the US population are foreign-born, and 20% speak a language other than English at home; 52 percent of immigrants come from Latin America. Although thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans make their way illegally into the country each year, they perform essential agricultural work, and legislators have been unable to find consensus on a solution to the issue. Immigration and Naturalization rules calling for farmers to verify workers' social security numbers have led to protests that this would cause farmers economic chaos. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants demonstrated at the US Capitol in 2010, protesting deportation. A month later, the governor of Arizona signed into law an act seen by proponents as merely enforcing federal law, among other things allowing the state to prosecute people who hire illegal immigrants. In response, protesters in 70 US cities engaged in mass demonstrations urging a boycott of Arizona.
DISSENT OVER THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
Divisions are growing concerning the role of government in the domestic sphere. The economic recession has intensified this debate, as parties disagree about the best remedy for a weak economy. The political right increasingly identifies itself with fiscal conservatism in the form of lower taxes for businesses as well as households, while others concerned about the economy favor an increase in funding for social programs, infrastructure, and regulatory agencies. Heated arguments over taxation, healthcare reform, government regulation of banks and business, abortion, and the rights of homosexuals have taken place in Congress, over the airwaves, and on the streets.
The vast territory of the United States includes zones prone to a variety of natural disasters, including earthquakes on the West Coast, wildfires in the Southwest, and hurricanes and tornadoes across the Midwest and Southeast. Following are brief overviews of safety information concerning these events.
If indoors, stay inside. Drop to the ground and take cover under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building. Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
Do not use a doorway unless you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and do not offer protection.
If outdoors, stay there. Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.
To avoid inhaling dust, cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
After an earthquake, be aware that gas mains, electrical circuits, roads, bridges, ramps, and traffic signals may have been damaged. Use caution. Do not light a match.
All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes. Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast also experience heavy rains and floods each year from hurricanes spawned off Mexico. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.
These severe tropical storms can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Storm surges along the coast can cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall. Floods, landslides, and flying debris from the excessive winds are among the hazards from hurricanes.
If a hurricane watch is issued, travelers should learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. During a hurricane, stay indoors and away from windows and glass doors, keep curtains and blinds closed, and close all interior doors. If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.
Tornadoes are most likely to occur east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Appalachians. Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer. The following states are entirely or partly within the zone most likely to experience winds over 250 miles per hour:
Northern part of Gulf states: Alabama, Louisiana, Texas
Plains states: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota
Winds in the bordering states also reach 200 miles per hour. Residents of tornado-prone areas are familiar with the importance of heeding tornado watches and tornado warnings; some buildings are equipped with "safe rooms" for shelter.
If a tornado approaches, watch out for flying debris, which is the cause of most tornado fatalities and injuries. If you are indoors or near buildings, take the following steps:
Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, or storm cellar. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
Put on sturdy shoes.
Do not open windows.
If you are outdoors with no shelter, seek the lowest place and lie down in it, covering your head with your hands. Do not get under an overpass or bridge; you are safer in a low, flat location. Trees are not safe, as tornadoes can uproot or snap large trees. If you are able to get into a vehicle, do the following:
Buckle your seat belt. Try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible.
If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area.
The dry climate and rainless summers of the southwestern US create ideal conditions for wildfires. These fires most often strike in summer or early autumn, beginning in wild areas where brush or forests are ignited by lightning or as a result of human carelessness. High winds can cause fires to spread rapidly and engulf homes.
If you see a wildfire and haven't heard any information about it, call 911 to report it. Don't assume that someone else has already called.
Fire alerts usually give people time to evacuate an area at risk from encroaching fire. Warning sirens are sounded, signalling people in threatened areas to tune their radio to their local disaster channel for instructions. If you are ordered or advised to evacuate, do so immediately. If leaving the scene is impossible, the following are the safest measures to take:
Sheltering in a Home
If you do find yourself trapped by wildfire inside a home, stay inside and away from outside walls. Close doors, but leave them unlocked.
Sheltering in a Car
Should you be unexpectedly caught by a wildfire while driving, try to flee the fire in your car, NOT ON FOOT. Roll up windows and close air vents. Drive slowly with headlights on. Watch for other vehicles and pedestrians. Do not drive through heavy smoke. The engine may stall and not restart.
If you have to stop, park away from the heaviest trees and brush. Turn headlights on and ignition off. Roll up windows and close air vents. Get on the floor and cover up with a blanket or coat until the main fire passes. Air currents may rock the car. Some smoke and sparks may enter the vehicle, and the temperature inside will increase. Metal gas tanks and containers rarely explode.
Sheltering in the Open
The best temporary shelter is in a sparse fuel area. Avoid canyons. If a road is nearby, lie face down along the road cut or in the ditch on the uphill side. Clear fuel away from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself with anything that will shield you from the fire's heat. Stay down until after the fire passes!