DHS council to propose online lexicon

The Homeland Security Department's Advisory Council plans to recommend that the department post an online lexicon of important terms used in the homeland security field to help officials and the public avoid confusion when discussing key concepts.

Christopher Furlow, the council's executive director, said the proposal would go to Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge in a matter of days.

'With some folks, their eyes glaze over when you first start talking about lexicon,' Furlow said. 'But all it takes is a few examples.' He described how the acronym CERT can refer to a computer emergency response team, a civil emergency response team or a community emergency response team. 'That describes entities that would have vastly different roles in an emergency,' he said.

A more recent example is the acronym RDD, which in the past mainly was used to refer to radiological dispersion devices. 'But in the wake of the Madrid bombings, you see it being used to describe remote detonation devices,' Furlow said. 'Certainly if you are a first responder, seeing RDD is going to influence how you respond.'

Furlow said the council would recommend that DHS hire a lexicographer to gather key acronyms and terms from important documents and maintain an online database that would be available to the public and updated continuously.

'DHS can't mandate that other agencies use this,' Furlow said. 'But it is important that DHS take this role and promote it among other stakeholders, including the Hill,' he said, referring to Congress.

Furlow said the council would recommend against providing the lexicon in a paper version that would collect dust on a bookshelf and become outdated before it was used.

Ridge will make the final decision whether to go forward with the lexicon project, Furlow said.

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