As we approach the sixth year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy and in the wake of the ongoing analysis of the Virginia Tech incident last April, I remind everyone that while reflecting on those events and feeling compassion for the lives lost, we should invest the time to become familiar with our own protocols in case of a campus emergency.
American University has an extensive outline of procedures that are regularly updated, tested, and fine-tuned via planning exercises with campus officials and off-campus security personnel. Our complete emergency management procedures are posted online via the AU home page; simply click on the yellow Emergency Preparedness button. Please review them and become familiar with how they might apply to you—as a student, staff, or faculty member.
Everyone in our AU community has a significant role to play, beginning with being alert, mindful of your surroundings, and reporting any suspicious activity. Building on the substantial information in the comprehensive plan, a few practical steps that everyone should keep in mind include:
The best number to call to report an incident or suspicious occurrence or for immediate assistance is AU Public Safety—202-885-3636.
The non-emergency line is 202-885-2527, and the general AU information line is 202-885-1100.
Some 33 emergency phones are located across campus; in case of emergency, use them. Public Safety also has a number of strategically placed surveillance cameras to assist in crime prevention and detection.
Carry your ID, cell phones, PDAs, up-to-date contact information, and quarters (for pay phones) with you both on and off campus.
Let friends, colleagues, or family members know your schedule—especially during “high alert” times. The anniversary of 9/11 is such a time.
While emergency circumstances will vary and may dictate the most effective communication method in specific situations (using both new and traditional technologies), our message dissemination capabilities include e-mail, voice mail, Web-posting, text message, emergency call-in line, news media notification, phone trees, word-of-mouth, and bullhorns. We will continue to assess the efficacy of each and augment as needed.
Beyond campus notification procedures, we strongly encourage AU community members to sign up for Alert DC, a free public service managed by the D.C. government that provides immediate text notification and updates to e-mail, cell phone, and other electronic devices during a crisis or emergency.
AU’s Public Safety office is staffed by professionals with a solid working relationship with D.C. Metropolitan Police (MPD) and other local and regional safety organizations—including Homeland Security (across the street from campus). AU Public Safety is part of the Joint Operations Command Center structure, a network that coordinates response and assistance by various police authorities when a large-scale crisis unfolds in Washington, D.C.
I will update the campus regularly on this vitally important topic; I appreciate everyone’s community-minded spirit as we continue to review and improve our procedures and protocols.