An e-mail to the GW community Friday outlined campus emergency plans, which officials said may include evacuating students to Mount Vernon or other area colleges in a worst-case scenario.
The University’s security status remains at “normal,” meaning campus officials have not requested outside help for any situations, as the U.S. Homeland Security Council continues to deem the country’s threat level “Code Orange,” or high risk.
The e-mail referred students and staff to GW’s online incident manual at www.gwu.edu/ ~response, which outlines how members of the University community should prepare for, respond to and recover from an emergency situation.
John Petrie, assistant vice president for public safety and emergency management, advises students to print out this e-mail, which also includes emergency phone numbers and Web site addresses.
Petrie said students should stay inside a safe building in the event of an incident outside. He suggested keeping a flashlight, medications, a battery-powered radio and extra batteries on hand but said there are no special precautions students should take to prepare for a possible terrorist attack.
“General guidance is appropriate,” he said. “Does that mean that I think you ought to have gallons and gallons of water? No.”
All University Police vehicles – patrol cars, 4-RIDE vans and three buses – have been equipped with public address loudspeakers that GW will use to disseminate information in an emergency.
GW’s system of four alert levels is designed to describe specific incidents, Petrie explained, and the campus status will not be elevated unless an event occurs that would require officials to seek outside help.
Petrie said he met with presidents and security officials of area universities, including the universities of Maryland and D.C. and American, Marymount and Howard universities Friday. The group had the idea to move students from a threatened campus to a safe one in a severe emergency. Petrie said the plan is a “great idea,” but details will have to be worked out at a follow-up meeting.
Evacuating students from the Foggy Bottom campus to Mount Vernon is also “one possibility,” he said, but stressed that GW will strive to take care of students and staff with other resources available first.
“We don’t want to ever evacuate,” said Petrie. “Taking the thousands of people from here to the Mount Vernon campus is only a temporary solution, especially in February.”
While GW has not amassed a stockpile of food, he said a plan is in place with Metropolitan Police to allow scheduled deliveries to reach campus.
“We don’t bring food to campus on a daily basis,” Petrie said. “We may have a delay of eight to 12 hours of a delivery. We have enough food to take care of us for a few days and we can get delivery even if through police lines.”
University Police Chief Dolores Stafford said her department is trained and ready to handle an emergency as first responders. She said UPD received incident management training over the summer and, since September 11, the department has worked more closely with city officials.
During a crisis situation, a UPD officer can sit in on meetings with the D.C. Emergency Management Agency, Stafford said.
Students had mixed opinions about GW’s preparedness for a national emergency.
“The University hasn’t really told us anything,” said sophomore Becca Blitz, adding that she received GW’s e-mail Friday, “but there’s nothing they could tell us that common sense wouldn’t.”
Second-year medical student Sam Long, a guard who checks indentifcation, noted security measures at Ross Hall have made graduate facilities more prepared for possible danger.
Freshman Derek Newberry did not seem worried about terrorism as he lounged in the Hippodrome, awaiting the finale of FOX’s Joe Millionaire Monday night.
If the city is under attack on the scale of September 11, he said, “no amount of duct tape is going to change that.”
-Joshua Riezman contributed to this report.
This article appeared in the February 18, 2003 issue of the Hatchet.