The Department of Homeland Security briefed the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments on the system Wednesday.
The new terrorism alert system has only two threat levels -- elevated and imminent -- and it will give specific details on actual threats.
Some say that's a far cry from the heavily criticized color-coded system that was previously in place.
Merni Fitzgerald, a spokesperson with Fairfax County, agrees.
"Just having one color that sort of represented something wasn't always helpful," says Fitzgerald.
Local leaders discussed the importance of sending one consistent alert message through websites and social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. They also expressed concern over communication failures of the past, including the conflicting information that went out during the "snowmageddon" snowstorms of February 2010.
Charles Marino of the Department of Homeland Security says the key will be to release credible information that tells people what to do.
"We need to allow people to not only keep their families safe, but give them information that can help them help authorities," he says.
The next step will be a system that communicates alerts by text message.