In Wake of Boston Tragedy, Staying Safe on Campus

Darrell Darnell, senior associate vice president for safety and security, urges the university community to remain alert and report any suspicious activity or package to authorities.

April 17, 2013

In the days following what President Obama has called “a heinous and cowardly act,” the nation mourned three who died and the more than 170 who were injured in a bombing at the Boston Marathon, while authorities continued their investigation to find and bring those responsible to justice.

On campus, Darrell Darnell, senior associate vice president for safety and security, spoke with George Washington Today about how to stay safe at large events and provided tips on what to do if you see a suspicious package.

Q: Has the District or any of GW’s campuses received any credible threats after the Boston bombings?
A: No, we have not been made aware of any credible threats for the capital region.

Q: Is the university taking any additional security steps on campus or at events?
A: We are maintaining our normal security operations, but we are reiterating to our officers to always be on the lookout for suspicious or unusual behavior or activity.

Q: What safety tips do you have for university community members attending large gatherings, such as a sporting event or concert?
A: Always be aware of your surroundings. If you notice something unusual or you see unattended bags, report it immediately to event management staff or a security official.

Q: What measures does the university have in place to communicate in the event of an emergency?
A: During an emergency or any incident involving a credible threat, we will notify and inform the community on what actions to take using GWAlert text and email messaging. These alerts will also go out over social media, and all GW websites will be updated with a large red banner carrying the latest information about the emergency. These measures were tested just this week and are working well.

Q: What can university community members do to help keep the campus safe?
A: Above anything else, stay alert and always be aware of your surroundings.

If there is any question at all about a suspicious package or device, report it immediately to the GW Police Department at 202-994-6111 or call 911. Students, staff and faculty should remember to always close and lock doors behind them when entering and exiting residence halls or office buildings; don’t allow strangers access to GW buildings.

I also encourage everyone to sign up for GWAlert and provide us with their mobile device information so that we can send emergency text messages to them. The GW community can sign up for the alerts by logging on to Banner.

Q: How should community members react if they hear of a bomb threat or see a suspicious package?
A: Remain as calm as you can, obtain as much information as possible from the caller and report the threat immediately to GWPD at 202-994-6111 or call 911. Be sure to note the following:

  • Precise time of the call
  • Caller’s exact words
  • Noticeable characteristics of the caller (gender, approximate age, calm, angry, excited in disposition, etc.)
  • Information regarding the device and possible location
  • Background sounds (voices, street noises, music, etc.)
  • Threat language (well spoken, taped, irrational, foul, incoherent, etc.)

Ask the person questions such as:

  • Where is the bomb located?
  • When will the bomb explode?
  • What does the bomb look like?
  • What kind of bomb is it?
  • What will cause it to explode?

If you see a suspicious package or unusual mail, do not touch or open the item. Leave the area, close the doors behind you and call GWPD at 202-994-6111 or 911 and provide a detailed description of the item and location.