Feb. 28-March 13, 2003
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On Alert: Be cautious, be calm
On Alert: Be cautious, be calm
Rotunda pediment

By Matt Kelly

The University has increased its vigilance after the Department of Homeland Security raised its terrorism alert level to orange, the second-highest status, on Feb. 7. In addition, FBI director Robert Mueller testified before Congress Feb. 11 that colleges and universities may be particularly vulnerable to a terrorist attack.
The situation has faculty, staff and students seeking guidance about what to do — and what not to do.

“It is important for all of us, as individuals and as institutions, to be prepared in these perilous times,” said Leonard Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the University, as well as director of the University’s Critical Incident Management Team. “But it is also important that we continue to live our lives, free of fear and operating as normally as possible, as we go about our work and our studies.”

People need to put an orange alert in perspective.

“In an orange alert, the most important thing to know is that a terrorist attack is a very low-probability event for you personally,” said U.Va. faculty member and psychologist Peter Sheras, who heads the American Red Cross’ regional mental health team.

But people should still be prepared. Marjorie Sidebottom, who directs emergency management for the Medical Center, said people should have an emergency kit and a plan, such as where to meet if separated and where to go if evacuated.

The University has an Emergency Operations Plan with the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County for regional disasters, as well as its own Critical Incident Management Plan, which classifies levels of emergency, notification, evacuation and relocation plans. Minor, localized incidents are Level One, a major disruption is Level Two and a disaster affecting the entire Grounds and surrounding communities is Level Three. The University’s critical incident plan covers situations such as weather-related problems, bomb threats, public demonstrations and infrastructure failures.

The University’s Emergency Web site — http://www.virginia.edu/
— serves as a key resource for information, planning and answering questions related to all types of emergencies on Grounds. It provides a link to the Critical Incident Management Plan.

After an incident, people need to talk about what they experienced while being careful not to be re-traumatized. They should associate with other people, not just be riveted to their televisions, Sheras said.

It is also important to work out plans of what to do next.

And try to remain calm around children.

“What frightens children most is not frightening situations but frightened adults,” Sheras said.

Important phone numbers

Emergency personnel: 911 (9-911 from a University Rolm phone)

Infrastructure failure: relating to water, electricity or steam: 924-1777

Telephone failure, voice communications: 924-8600

Computer systems, ITC Help Desk: 924-3731

Inclement weather and hurricanes: 924-SNOW and 243-SNOW

University Police: 911 or 977-9041

Blue Ridge Poison Control Center: 1-800-222-1222

Crisis Intervention: 924-5556 or 243-5150

Escort Service: 242-1122 (8 p.m. to 7 a.m.)

Facilities Management Trouble Shooting: 924-1777

Open House Crisis hot line: 295-TALK (8255)

Sexual Assault Resource Agency hot line: 977-7273

Shelter for Help in Emergency hot line: 293-8509

Student Health (after hours, on-call): 972-7004

Web sites

The University’s Emergency/Critical Incident Web site

The American Red Cross

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. Department of Energy

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Environmental Protection Agency

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Homeland Security

What to pack
A disaster kit includes necessities such as first-aid supplies, prescription medications, clothing, a battery-operated radio, sleeping bags, food, bottled water, cash, important family documents and tools. Marjorie Sidebottom, who directs emergency management for the Medical Center, suggests always having a half or three-quarters full gas tank, books or games for children and a prepaid telephone card.

Quick do’s and don’t’s in an emergency

What to do:

Use common sense and give assistance as needed.
Call 9-911 or 911 on cell or non-University phones.
Evacuate buildings upon request of authorities, upon hearing an alarm, or when remaining inside is dangerous.
Know the location of at least two emergency exits close to working/living areas.

What NOT to do:

Do not use the telephone except to report the emergency situation.

Do not use elevators.

Do not jeopardize lives by attempting to save property.

Do not cross police barriers without authorization.

Do not exceed your training or knowledge rendering first aid.

Source: U.Va.’s Emergency/Critical Incident Web site

More tips about what to do

The American Red Cross advises that in the event of an emergency:
Remain calm.

Listen to news broadcasts for instructions.

Check for injuries, give first aid and get help for seriously injured people.

If you are home, check for damage using a flashlight. Check for fires and sniff for gas leaks, starting at the water heater. If a leak is suspected, turn off the main gas valve, open windows and get everyone outside quickly.

Shut off damaged utilities.

Secure pets.

Call the family contact and otherwise stay off the telephone.

Check neighbors.

If evacuated, listen to emergency instructions, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes, take disaster kit and pets, lock the house, use designated travel routes and avoid downed power lines. If there is no evacuation, family members are advised to go to an interior room with the disaster supply kit and listen to the radio for instructions.

In addition, the Red Cross is advising that people learn basic first aid.



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