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To Cope with Emergency,
Begin Before It Happens

Date: Nov. 27, 2001
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Archive: Campus News

What to do at a glance

In the wake of anthrax-by-mail and the Sept. 11 attacks, what to do in the face of an emergency or suspicious package is weighing on people's minds more than usual. A training session for business administrators Nov. 16 at the Medical Center attracted a standing-room only crowd of 60 university staff members.

The university also has stepped up efforts to raise faculty awareness of emergency response procedures, in case of a disaster. The University Recovery Team, chaired by Tom Cruse, associate provost for academic facility planning, made a joint presentation to Faculty Senate in mid-November with Jeff Corcoran of Public Safety and Charlie Anderkin from Management Services. Both Public Safety and Management Services have established web sites where faculty and staff can get more information on disaster response and recovery ( and

Cruse is careful to warn that no universities have been the target yet of anthrax-laden letters, although Howard University near Washington D.C. recently tested positive for traces of anthrax. Other disasters such as fire, tornado or flooding due to pipe breaks are the more likely threats at this point. To prove it, Cruse circulated a list of disastrous events that have occurred recently at other universities. Events range from a "flare-up" of a small construction fire that spread through three buildings and canceled finals in April at Longwood College in Virginia to a tornado that killed two students at University of Maryland in September.

The list does include one university that was directly affected by the World Trade Center attack. On Sept. 11 Pace University lost four students and more than 20 alumni at their campus on the 55th floor of World Trade Center One. New York University had to cope with smoke and dust from the collapse that was sucked in through ventilation systems.

UC is not immune to incidents that disrupt operations. According to Anderkin, in the past year, there have been three fires, vandalism resulting in a flood in the basement of a laboratory building and a gas cylinder that developed a leak. "Our goal is to have the faculty and staff better prepared to respond to these incidents, as well as to have a group of individuals oon call to assist in the recovery process once a disaster has occurred," said Cruse.

At UC, there have been various reports of suspicious packages since the anthrax scare began in October, but so far all have proven to contain harmless contents, including baking soda inside a box of athletic shoes sent to a student from his mom, said Gene Ferrara, director and assistant vice president for Public Safety.

Based on recent events, Jeff Corcoran of Public Safety advises looking for these factors in identifying a "suspicious" package that might need police attention:

  • foreign mail, air mail, special delivery
  • restrictive markings such as confidential or personal
  • unexpected packages
  • excessive postage
  • hand-written or poorly typed addresses
  • incorrect titles or titles with no names
  • misspellings of common words
  • oily stains or discolorations
  • unidentified powders or liquids leaking
  • no return address
  • postmark does not match return address
  • excessive weight
  • rigid, lopsided or uneven envelope
  • protruding wires or tinfoil
  • excessive securing material such as tape or string
  • visual distractions such as drawings or statements

In the event you do deem a package suspicious, do not open, shake or tamper with it. If possible, place it inside a plastic bag or waste can with a lid, leave the room, close the door and prevent anybody else from entering the room. Wash your hands with soap and water and call 911. (On campus this connects you to campus police if you use UC phones. If using a cell or pay phone, 911 will reach Hamilton County dispatchers who will contact UC police).

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