The Catholic University Of America
Office of the President
Washington, D.C. 20064

February 14, 2003





Following up on my February 12 letter to the CUA community, I want to provide you with concrete information to allay some of the concerns and fears that everyone is experiencing in light of the most recent “Code Orange” alert.


Along with the presidents of other Washington metropolitan universities, I met with D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey and his emergency preparation staff this morning, February 14, for 90 minutes to discuss the implications of the “Code Orange” alert that has been declared nationwide.  Thomasine Johnson, director of public safety, and Joseph Beres, director of environmental health and safety, accompanied me to the meeting, as did their counterparts from other campuses.


In his comments, Chief Ramsey and his staff emphasized the following:


1.       there is no specific intelligence information regarding possible terrorist action that has crossed his desk focused upon this specific place (Washington, D.C.) and this specific time;

2.       at this moment, Washington, D.C. is the best prepared and best protected city in the world;

3.       the odds are not high that something will happen in D.C.; at the same time, it is in everyone’s best interest that D.C. residents be reasonably prepared for an emergency;

4.       it is very important that people remain calm and not work themselves into a frenzy in the face of the “Code Orange” alert;

5.       all institutions in the D.C. area, including universities, should review their emergency and evacuation plans and make reasonable preparations for an emergency;

6.       the universities, in particular, will have a seat reserved at the Metropolitan Police Department Joint Operation Command Center so that in the event of an emergency accurate information can be communicated to the campuses in the most timely fashion.


Prior to this meeting with Chief Ramsey, on Wednesday afternoon, February 12, I convened a meeting of CUA emergency personnel to review our emergency and evacuation plan.  This 30-page document prepared following the attacks of September 11 addresses 17 different emergency scenarios and our planned responses for each.  The document has been distributed to all those university officials responsible for carrying out its directives.  The D.C. government hired KPMG consulting firm to review all universities’ emergency plans, including our own, and advised all of us, for security reasons, not to publish these plans on Web sites or make them available beyond those individuals responsible for directing and implementing them.


Here is some basic safety information that everyone at CUA should keep in mind:


1.       everyone should remain calm;

2.       in the event of an emergency, other than fire, everyone should stay inside the building where they currently are unless directed otherwise by an identified CUA official;

3.       other than in a fire emergency, everyone should move to a higher location in the building, to an interior corridor or room; close all windows and doors;

4.       turn on a radio or TV for news broadcasts; Chief Ramsey identified WTOP Radio (1500 AM), in particular, as a very good news source;

5.       everyone should carry with them at all times a CUA ID card;

6.       all D.C. residents, including students, are encouraged to keep handy in their rooms a gym-type bag or backpack which contains a change of clothes, a bottle of water, ID information, and a few Power bars or granola bars;

7.       everyone should follow the instructions of identified CUA officials.


Here is some additional information that everyone at CUA should know:


1.       the university has recently doubled the supply of water on hand;

2.       food storage on campus is sufficient for the time anticipated for an emergency;

3.       there are 18 emergency generators on campus for power, heat and light;

4.       the administration maintains regular contact with D.C. and federal agencies;

5.       systems for internal and external communication exist in the event that ordinary phone service is unavailable;

6.       on campus evacuation drills have been conducted, even before the “Code Orange” alert was announced, most recently last week; in the event of a campus evacuation (not just a building evacuation), everyone should proceed to Michigan Avenue and head away from D.C. toward Maryland, unless otherwise notified by identified CUA officials.


For those students reading this update, I encourage you to share this information with your parents and families — either by e-mail or phone — so that they can be assured that the university is prepared for an emergency.  KEEP IN TOUCH WITH YOUR PARENTS REGULARLY.


I will contact you again with a further update should the need arise.  Meanwhile, as government officials have been encouraging the general public to do, we should go about our daily lives according to our normal patterns.


Thanks very much.  Take care and God bless!


Very Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M.