U emergency response plan nearly finished

by Joanna Dornfeld

More than six months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the University’s emergency management plan is nearly revised, and plans for updated security have been finalized.

University officials began meeting the day after the terrorist attacks to discuss how to update an emergency plan in place since the 1970s.

The emergency plan is reviewed each year and rewritten every four years, but it was overhauled this year because of the attacks. The committee hopes the plan will be ready in April.

“Post-Sept. 11, everybody nationwide has sat down to evaluate security,” said University police Chief George Aylward. “Everything that was written prior to Sept. 11 needs to be rewritten.”

Aylward is also assistant vice president for public safety.

The previous emergency plan was developed to handle small emergencies with much support from outside agencies. Under the new emergency strategy, University departments will handle virtually all emergencies alone.

“We will do almost everything ourselves and not anticipate support,” Aylward said.

The emergency management plan lays out procedures in the event of an emergency ranging from a building fire to sabotaged research.

“The emergency plan outlines how the University will react during an emergency and identifies activities for all departments involved in the emergency,” said Amy Phenix, University spokeswoman.

Phenix said the plan includes information about notifications, closings and evacuations, establishing a chain of command, and post-emergency activities such as plan reassessment and business continuity.

The plan also teaches University personnel how to respond quickly to an emergency, said Elizabeth Wroblewski, University deputy chief of staff.

The emergency plan does not include security upgrades, but the committee discussed increasing security, especially in research areas, Phenix said.

Aylward said the “initiative to get this ball rolling” came directly from University President Mark Yudof, who strongly supports increasing campus security.

Currently, Parking and Transportation Services is the only department on campus that monitors surveillance cameras in parking lots and ramps from one centralized location.

But under the increased security measures, surveillance cameras, swipe cards and key access across campus will be centralized. The location has yet to be determined, Aylward said.

Employees independent from the police department will monitor the surveillance and security equipment, Aylward said.

Research buildings will be some of the first to receive the updated security equipment.

“Research facilities are essentially at the top of our agenda,” Aylward said.

In addition to cameras and swipe-card access, two radios will likely be installed in every University building to relay messages in the event of an emergency, said Judson Freed, Emergency Management acting director.

Wroblewski said, “Dealing with an emergency is mostly a communications issue.”

The University requested $4 million over three years from the state Legislature for the updated security measures.

Security updates will now be planned, paid for and implemented by the public safety department. In the past each University department and building was in charge of updating its own security when necessary.

“An academic department doesn’t plan for security upgrades,” Aylward said.

The security upgrades will take place over a number of years as funds become available, he said.

The University is also looking for cost-effective ways to warn students in an emergency. One possibility is contracting with a pager company so the University can notify students through the paging system.

“We’re trying every possibility we can at a low cost,” Freed said.

Joanna Dornfeld welcomes comments at [email protected]