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Tufts revises campus emergency guide

Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 07:11

The Department of Public and Environmental Safety has updated its guidelines for the university’s response to emergency situations, expanding it to include protocol for hurricanes, extreme heat and winter storms.

Public Safety’s official Emergency Response Guide received its makeover last month, before Hurricane Sandy hit the Hill, but Director of Public and Environmental Safety Kevin Maguire said that the storm underlined the importance of being prepared for extreme weather and emergencies.

The Natural Disaster section of the guide was one of five sections that Public Safety edited and updated. The section now includes provisions like one that advises students and faculty working in laboratories to stop their experiments until the storm passes.

“We have always been aware that natural disasters can happen in Massachusetts at any time,” Maguire said. “But recent weather events have definitely added to the importance of the Natural Disaster section.”

Public Safety Program Coordinator Anastassiia Tarassiouk said it is unclear why protocol for hurricanes and other extreme weather events more common to the Boston area, like heat and winter storms, was not included in previous versions of the guide.

Power outages, which Maguire said are more common at Tufts than natural disasters, have been removed from the section on natural disasters and given their own section in the new guide.

“If you think of ... emergencies that could happen on campus, power [outage] is one of the big ones,” Tarassiouk said. “It is important to have that on its own.”

The need to create a new section for power outages was one of the main reasons Public Safety revamped the guide this year, Tarassiouk said. Public Safety worked with Facilities Services and the Office of Residential Life and Learning to develop advice on what to do in cases of power outage and gas leakage, as well as water, sewer, data or telephone network failure, Maguire said.

The new guide also features edits to the section on hazardous materials spills to include fuel and oil spills. Though not as frequent as other incidents, these situations tend to occur at Tufts with vehicles or in dining halls, Environmental Manager in the Department of Environmental Health and Safety Peter Kelly−Joseph said.

For example, the revised Emergency Response Guide should make the protocol more clear for cases where small vehicle fuel spills occur on campus and the vehicle’s driver does not already know what to do, Kelly−Joseph said.

The guide now instructs people in that situation to call the Tufts University Police Department and arrange for a Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Coordinator to analyze the situation.

In addition to more comprehensive sections, the cover of the new guide lists pertinent websites as well as emergency and non−emergency phone numbers, Tarassiouk said, explaining that this will prevent overuse of the campus 911 service.

When emergency phone calls are necessary, Tarassiouk said the new Emergency Response Guide is better equipped to help individuals record information about the incident for first responders.

In its centerfold, the Emergency Response Guide features a bomb threat worksheet that prompts the recipient of such a threat to write down all the information the police needs, Maguire said.

Particularly around the time of final exams at the end of each semester, certain departments have reported receiving such telephone bomb threats, Tarassiouk said.

The new version also includes more user−friendly materials, such as a summary of each section on its first page, as Public Safety acknowledged that most people in these situations at Tufts have not looked at the entire Emergency Response Guide.

“It’s always easier for everyone involved in the incident if the person has some idea of what to do,” Tarassiouk said. “We understand that no one will sit and read through the whole guide, but if they have it, we hope it’s accessible.”

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