Sep 102002
Authors: Shandra Jordan

Although the airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania were thousands of miles away, emergency organizations on the CSU campus still responded.

“We were meeting probably twice a day after Sept. 11 last year,” said CSU Police Chief Donn Hopkins, “to deal with what might be the impact locally from that national disaster.”

The CSUPD, in conjunction with other campus, city and state organizations, has a University Emergency Operations plan in case of terrorism, accidents or natural disasters.

This plan has been around in the current form for at least 10 years, though it has been updated in the past year, Hopkins said.

The plan details the goals of the emergency management team, what departments and which people should react in the event of an emergency and a basic outline of how emergency operations should be handled. The EMT meets about once a month to discuss the plan and do tabletop and field scenarios.

Tabletop scenarios are when the EMT is given a scenario and they plan out how they would handle it.

“We improvise or initiate different actions,” Hopkins said. “In some cases we actually make phone calls.”

Field scenarios require more time and space and therefore are done less frequently, Hopkins said.

“It was larger scale where we actually had fire and medical people there,” Hopkins said. “Both scenarios have some realism that puts some realistic sense of responsibility.”

The most recent field exercise was held last winter in Hughes stadium and dealt with a hazardous materials spill. The most recent tabletop exercise was a health issue where the EMT worked with people at the Hartshorn Health Center to develop a plan.

Both field and tabletop exercises have been taking place for several years, said Hopkins.

“We’re set up so if nothing’s really happening we still get together once a month,” said Bob Ellis, a microbiology professor and a member of the Biosafety Committee at CSU.

The Biosafety Committee is responsible for making sure that all infectious disease and recombinant DNA research takes place under the correct guidelines, Ellis said. They are also part of the EMT team.

The Biosafety Committee was created in the 1980s so that CSU could do this type of research.

“We put this group together and pretty much expanded it to cover a whole lot of different areas,” said James Graham, the associate director of the Biosafety Committee.

The committee has about 15 members who respond to many calls including air quality questions and fire alarms.

There is always one member within 30 minutes of campus who carries the No. 1 pager and another within two hours carrying the No. 2 pager.

Since anthrax was found at a few government offices and newspapers last winter, Graham said he has seen an increase in calls about suspicious substances.

“Right after the anthrax scare, we had several anthrax calls,” Graham said.

CSU does research on organisms at biosafety levels of one, two and three. The highest level is a four. Because CSU does do research at levels two and three, on infectious diseases like Tuberculosis that could be used in bioterrorism, they have tight security on buildings doing this research.

Ellis said these precautions have been in place for many years.

“Don’t leave doors open when you’re not there, don’t let people you don’t know in your lab, know what materials you have. Just don’t make things easily available that might be used for bad purposes,” Ellis said. “Those kind of precautions have been available since before Sept. 11 and have been stepped up since but not a lot because it’s working.”

Ellis said most of the precautions are just common sense advice to lab workers. They also have security cameras in place and locks on all the doors.

“Yes, we are watching, we’re doing things to help avert things we don’t want to happen,” Ellis said.

Since Sept. 11, Ellis said he hasn’t seen any increase in suspicious or problematic activity, and in fact it has been less active than past years.

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