Thousands Flock to Ninth Annual Safety Expo

A record number of participants and partners took part in the event.

Safety Expo
A GW EMT gives safety tips to onlookers on University Yard during Wednesday's Safety Expo.
September 20, 2013

More than 2,000 participants extinguished fires, built emergency preparedness kits, defended themselves against “attackers” and learned how to prepare for emergencies during the George Washington University’s ninth annual Safety Expo on Wednesday.

The expo is part of National Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its Ready Campaign. GW’s expo is the D.C. metro area’s largest collegiate-based National Preparedness Month activity, and this year’s was the university’s largest one yet.

Thirty local, federal and nonprofit agencies as well as campus departments took part in the expo, presented by GW’s Office of Safety and Security. It was a record turnout for the event in terms of both attendees and community partners, said George Nunez, director of the Office of Emergency Management.

White tents covered University Yard where representatives from the various agencies — such as the American Red Cross, D.C. Department of Health and Metro, among many others — were able to put faces to their names. They provided pamphlets and information about the services they offered.

“This is about the GW community being able to meet and interact with these partners,” Mr. Nunez said. “It is important for employees and students to know about all of these services, especially here in D.C. where there are so many different agencies.”

Max Hoffman, a certified emergency medical technician and a senior in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, was at the Safety Expo, getting the word out about the university’s Emergency Medical Response Group (EMeRG). He said the expo is a great way for students to learn about the safety resources available to them on and off campus.

From talking with people who visited his station, he realized that some people have misconceptions about GW’s Emergency Medical Services team.

“People aren’t so sure about it when they hear ‘student-run.’ Yes, we are students at GW. But we’re not students at running the ambulance,” Mr. Hoffman said.

He also informed those at the expo about CPR classes offered by EMeRG, which are free for all GW affiliates.

In addition to free CPR classes, participants at the Safety Expo also learned about free self-defense classes offered by the GW Police Department.

Officers from GWPD gave a preview of those classes at the expo.

“You guys want to learn how to block a punch?” GWPD Officer Jonathan Phalen, dressed in padded, protective gear, asked a crowd that had gathered around him.

With help from volunteers in the crowd, GWPD demonstrated how to escape from an attacker’s hold and how to ward off unwelcomed advances from strangers on the Metro.

The police department’s free self defense classes, offered four times in the fall semester and four times in the spring, are intended to focus on techniques that are based on simplicity and leverage.

“What we really can teach people to take with them is how to develop a proper survival mindset.” GWPD Captain Michael Glaubach said. “Being mentally prepared — that’s the hard part.”           

More than 15,000 individual items such as Band-Aids, face masks, glow sticks and first-aid kits were given to more than 1,000 attendees who assembled their own emergency preparedness kits at the expo.  Volunteers from Target and the Points of Light Foundation assisted with the safety kit assembly.

Mr. Nunez said the Safety Expo was a success and continues to grow every year. It is important to heighten awareness about being safe on campus and around the city, especially in light of the recent tragedy at the Navy Yard, he said.

“This is just one of the many events that we do,” Mr. Nunez said. “When we talk about preparedness, it’s not just a one-time thing.”

The Virginia Science and Technology Campus will host its Safety Expo on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at the Enterprise Hall Executive Dining Room from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Visit GW Campus Advisories for preparedness tips and safety information including the GW Emergency Response Handbook.