As the nation ends its second week on high alert for possible terror attacks, University officials said Thursday they are doing everything in their power to ensure the safety of Yale students, staff, and faculty.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the University has made several moves to improve Yale’s response capabilities — including improving communications, assessing the University’s food stock and improving the security of campus facilities, University Secretary Linda Lorimer said.
Lorimer, who e-mailed the entire Yale community Thursday with emergency protocols, said there is no particular reason to believe that Yale is in danger of attack.
“We have no information from any source that would suggest that Yale is a target,” Lorimer said. “However — we should be alert to ways to be vigilant to our security.”
Last week, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced after a meeting with the Homeland Security Council that government officials had decided to increase the nation’s threat condition to the orange — or “high-risk” — category. Before the announcement, the United States was considered under “elevated condition,” the third of five risk categories.
A task force Yale President Richard Levin appointed after Sept. 11, 2001, worked throughout the 2001-2002 academic year to review and improve Yale’s emergency preparedness, Lorimer said.
Lorimer said the task force established relationships with local hospitals and backed up the University’s computer systems.
The task force also created an emergency manual for senior administrators, Lorimer said. She said her colleagues in the Secretary’s Office, in response to the nation’s elevated threat level, reviewed the emergency manual and the initiatives of the task force to make sure there were no gaps in its procedures.
“We hope never to have to activate the procedures in the emergency manual, but it is better to be prepared,” Lorimer said.
Lorimer said the task force worked closely with city and state officials because a large-scale emergency situation would require close cooperation. As part of the plan, Yale designated a representative to serve in the city’s emergency operations center, which coordinates the city’s emergency services during civil emergencies.
“Any time the city activates its own emergency command center, there will be a Yale representative on-site,” Lorimer said.
Levin said he believes other major public buildings or athletic stadiums are probably more likely targets for an attack, but he said Yale has preventative and response measures in place because of the threat.
“Yale is a well-known institution, so obviously we’ve been more concerned — that [terrorist] plans might be centered on us,” Levin said. “The University is taking every precaution that we could possibly take — We’re doing the best we can.”
Levin said University officials are “paying attention” to announcements about the nation’s security, but he said Yale’s policies have not been altered because of the nation’s recently elevated high-risk security status.
“In the case of any kind of major emergency, there would be communication across federal, state and local authorities [including Yale],” Levin said. “On Sept. 11 , we were in touch with numerous outside agencies and today the connections and plans are much more developed, so there would be even better communication now, I would think.”
In September, Yale administrators joined more than 75 public officials and first responders in a tabletop exercise designed to test the city’s bioterrorism preparedness.
Representatives from all three area hospitals, the Yale and New Haven police departments and the New Haven Fire Department worked with state emergency response officials to contain a virtual smallpox attack that originated within the University.
Levin said the current state of heightened alert is not specific to universities.
“In this kind of world, nobody is 100 percent safe anywhere,” Levin said.
Lorimer said part of the reason for her e-mail was to comfort parents. In the e-mail, Lorimer encouraged students to relay the message to their parents.
“I hope, as the e-mail indicated, that parents would recognize that if an emergency occurred, we would post regularly on the University’s main home page regarding updates of the situation at Yale,” Lorimer said.