Professors play key role in emergency action plan

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Professors are now playing a key role in a new initiative by GW’s Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management to inform students about the emergency action plan.

Professors have been advised to talk to their students about how to escape in case of a fire or other emergency at the start of the semester, and many are using Blackboard to post their emergency plans.

John Petrie, assistant vice president for public safety and emergency management, said keeping GW safe is “like rolling a boulder up a greasy hill. If I said we have everything fine, you should have me fired. It’s never true. We are constantly trying to make things better and find new ways to improve the emergency systems.”

Though the emergency action plan is not new, Petrie’s office decided to encourage professors to reach out to their students this semester.

“(As) the professors are not working under our office, encourage is the exact word,” Petrie said in reference to the authority his office has to ensure professors disseminate their emergency plans to students.

“The “emergency plan” materials are to be used at the beginning of the course,” Petrie said. “The point is to have everyone informed before something happens.”

Another new public safety project at GW is the Campus Alert program, one which enables the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management to send out text message alerts to students, faculty and other D.C. residents.

The Campus Alert program has been so successful, it is now used as a model for other universities across the nation, Petrie said.

“For universities of our size, it is almost an expectation. We set it all up,” he said. “I can’t tell you we are better than everyone else, it is not a competition. But I can say we are as good as anyone.”

Last June, Petrie and his team met with leading university safety managers from around the U.S. to brainstorm ideas about the future of university safety.

David Costanza, chair of the department of organizational sciences and communication, said the majority of students and faculty may still be unaware of the emergency plans.

“It seems to me that it has done a very good job at the higher levels of making sure administrators and staff have been prepared and are ready to respond to a variety of incidents, (however) the big challenge now is to get the faculty (in general) and students to be aware of the plans and their implications,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Petrie and his office have been working to keep support materials for deans and directors at GW constantly up-to-date.

“We put edits in all the time. Currently, the main portion of the EAP is undergoing review,” Petrie said.

GW’s emergency plans have been recognized 11 times by International Safety Management, an organization which assesses safety plans at every type of institution, not just universities.

David Grier, associate dean of academic programs for the Elliott School said, “It is good to have a plan for emergencies even though when emergencies come you can rarely follow the plan exactly.”

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