GW prepared in case of emergency

The sixth anniversary of Sept. 11 rekindles the question of whether a city school such as GW is prepared for and safe from another attack on American soil. The University said it has taken steps to ensure the safety of its community, and Foggy Bottom is as safe as ever.

To ensure this protection, the University has established several programs to further campus safety, including the GW Campus Advisories Web site and Alert D.C., a text messaging service that provides updated information during a crisis or emergency.

“We have extensive coordination with federal and local counterparts,” said John Petrie, assistant vice president for Public Safety and Emergency Management. “We have more people throughout this geography to keep it the safest place on the planet.”

Also in the event of an emergency, 29 University Police Department vehicles – equipped with loud speakers – would drive to predetermined locations throughout campus to give live instructions to students, staff and faculty, Petrie told The Hatchet last spring. That message could come from either UPD or Petrie.

The philosophy for emergency communication is “shelter in place,” meaning that everyone should remain indoors.

Petrie came to the University in December 2001 to help create a comprehensive plan to respond to a campus emergency. Petrie previously told The Hatchet that the University’s “Incident Manual” has been revised 174 times since being created in September 2002.

The University has a strong relationship with neighboring police departments and all departments throughout the city are constantly working to further tranquility in the GW community, Petrie said.

In the summer of 2006, the University subscribed to Alert D.C. to provide students with an additional tool to receive information during an emergency. Since the shootings at Virginia Tech last April, about 1,000 people have joined the text messaging service, bringing the number of total subscribers in the GW community to 5,345, he said.

“Our priorities are the people and the people and the people,” Petrie said. “Then we worry about any effects to campus as a whole. With Alert D.C. we can reach thousands of people in less than 4 minutes, which gives us a huge advantage.”

University Police Department Chief Dolores Stafford said her officers are trained in emergency preparedness and response, but she emphasized that it is still crucial for students to do their part in being prepared.

“I would strongly recommend that everyone on campus sign up for the D.C. Alert system so we can notify them in the event of a serious incident on campus,” Stafford said. “People can sign up for just the GW University Community and they will then get limited messages, but in an emergency, those messages will be of critical importance.”

Freshman Rory Lamond said that although he has not signed up for Alert D.C., he has faith in the local law enforcement to deal with an emergency.

“Obviously we should worry about another attack or disaster happening, but I don’t think we should worry very often,” Lamond said.

Petrie said his office is constantly working to develop new ways to keep the University safe, but he insists members of the GW community should use the existing tools he and others in the University are providing to stay informed.

“I am consistently looking for ways to improve communication and would urge people to sign up for Alert D.C. on the Campus Advisories page and to visit that Web site regularly,” Petrie said.

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