Even though no one could have foreseen the horrific events of Sept. 11,
from an operational point of view, Emory responded fairly quickly to the
tragedies and their effects on campus.
Top administrators huddled and were making response decisions within an
hour of the terrorist attacks; the Emory Police Department (EPD) was mobilized
to help direct traffic on Clifton Road; and Campus Life immediately addressed
the informational and psychological needs of students, faculty and staff,
while Religious Life provided support in things spiritual.
But as swift as the Universitys varied reactions were, theres
nothing to say they could not be swifter, and thats exactly what
those in charge of Emory operations and security have had in mind ever
since the dust settled in New York and Washington.
We always look for opportunities to review and enhance the security
and procedures we have, and this is another opportunity to conduct those
reviews and see what we can improve, said EPD Chief Craig Watson.
Watson and Erick Gaither, senior associate vice president for business
management, said the top priority is streamlining communication channels
not just within the University, but among all the entities located in
the Clifton Corridor. Tens of thousands of people live and work along
a mile-long stretch of four-lane road, and that sort of population density
can get even thicker in a time of crisis.
The president has asked a group to get together to address these
issues; we want to set up a good flow of information between all of us
on the corridor, Gaither said. What this has done is made
us, as well as the rest of the nation, look at a completely different
aspect [of emergency response].
That aspect is the suddenly haunting possibility of having to evacuate
many or even all of the students and employees along Clifton. On Sept.
11, the University sent all non-essential employees home at noon, and
the resulting traffic jam was even worse than a normal rush hour, Gaither
said, since on a typical day workers and students arrive at or depart
the area at different times.
Complicating matters further was the logical assumption that the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could be a legitimate target
for terrorism, which introduced a greater security and police presence.
DeKalb County police actually closed a stretch of Clifton around the CDC
on Sept. 11, both for security reasons and to help clear traffic out of
Watson said his department will work with DeKalb police to coordinate
their responses in the event of another such emergency. He said the two
agencies will take existing plans for special events (such as Commence-ment
and even the 1996 Olympic Games) and build on them to come up with a framework
that could be used in the case of a complete evacuation.
Meanwhile, within the campus, Gaither said building-specific evacuation
plans already exist and are available on the Universitys Fire Safety
website, located at www.epcs.emory.edu/fire.
Terrorist attacks notwithstanding, Gaither said its simply a good
idea for everyone to be familiar with the evacuation plans, emergency
exits and stairwells at the buildings in which they spend a good deal
of timefires burn just as hot whether terrorists start them or not.
Still, despite the preparations and the precautions, Watson said people
at Emory should not feel especially threatened because every college and
University in the country is looking at the same kind of security issues
as Emory. Indeed, Campus Life was not the only University office looking
after the psychological well-being of its constituents on Sept. 11.
When something like that happens, yes, its a long way away,
but that doesnt mean you dont feel uncomfortable, Watson
said. One of our main goals that day was to be out and be as visible
as we possibly could, as reassurances to folks. A uniform visibility and
presence usually makes people feel a little safer and a little better.