South suburb doing away with terrorism warning signs

Mayor of Country Club Hills doesn't like the new threat level system

April 26, 2011

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(Getty/Scott Olson)
A Country Club Hills employee changes the flag in 2003 after the threat level was raised.

A south suburb of Chicago plans to take down signs that alert residents to the current terrorism threat level. That's after the feds announced they were scrapping the color-coded system.

It may seem a bit out of place driving through Country Club Hills to see big signs reading "Homeland Security Advisory System."

"I think there's five ratings, and you fly a flag above it corresponding with the rating," said Dwight Welch, mayor of County Club Hills, which is about 25 miles south of Chicago's downtown.

Welch said the signs went up shortly after the 2001 attacks. He said he did not expect his city with a population less than 17,000 to be targeted, but he said his residents should know the risks.

"Any given day, I would say that 50-percent of my citizens are employed in downtown Chicago," Welch said. "The impact would be devastating...if there were an event there to the kids in town and their parents."

Welch, though, is not so concerned that he wants to keep the signs up with the new system from the Department of Homeland Security, which trades in the five color codes for two threat levels: elevated and imminent.

"This one it seems like they're shooting from the hip," Welch said.

For now, Welch has ordered Country Club Hills staff to take down the signs.