9/11 prompted creation of emergency documents

Although Yale has had building-specific evacuation procedures in place for decades, the Universitywide emergency plans accidentally posted online are relatively new. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks led University President Richard Levin to call for the creation of an institutionalized plan.

“New York City is not exactly around the corner, but it seemed very close after 9/11,” Deputy Secretary for the University Martha Highsmith said. “The possibility of an emergency became a really present reality.”

Highsmith said Levin asked University Secretary Linda Lorimer to assemble a diverse group of administrators and on-staff experts. These people were responsible for developing a multidiscplinary all-hazards plan, she said. This means that Yale tried to create a protocol applicable to every area of the University which could be deployed in the face of any disaster.

Although it was relatively rare at the time for a university to develop a full plan, Highsmith said, Yale did not need to hire outside consultants: Many of the details were developed by faculty from the Yale School of Medicine who had previous experience in emergency planning.

The original plans have been revised after drills, Highsmith said, adding that the Emergency Operations Team — a group of administrators who head incident response — is always ready.

Still, Highsmith said there have been few major emergencies in the past 10 years. The bombing at the Yale Law School in May 2003 was “the big one,” Highsmith said, because it warranted the activation of the entire EOT. She added that the EOT has partially deployed for other emergencies, such as a widespread power outage in the northeastern United States in August 2003.

The only other instances of full emergency response took place this academic year, Highsmith said. The EOT was fully activated for the threat of Hurricane Earl in September and during three major snowstorms in January and February.

“It’s been a big year,” Highsmith said.

During the snow emergencies, the EOT ensured that dining halls and Yale Health remained open and sufficiently staffed, Highsmith said. The team also asked New Haven officials to plow Ashmun Street, where Yale Health and the Yale Police Department are located, she added.

Last month was the snowiest month in recorded history in Connecticut, with 57 inches of snow at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, according to WFSB-3’s weather website. The previous record was 45.3 inches in December 1945.

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