Emergency Operations Spotlight

By John Curran

Elm Staff Writer

On two separate instances within the last four weeks, Washington College has been hit with fire related emergencies. On Aug. 15 a fire burned part of the Washington College Business Office on 515 Washington Ave. More recently on Sept. 8, there was a fire in Reid Hall sparked by a faulty light fixture.

While the WC administration and Public Safety would like to prevent any and all emergency instances, stopping absolutely every emergency is simply not feasible. College press releases were quick to highlight the swift action of college administrators and students in dealing with and responding to both fires.

One of the key factors that allowed for positive outcomes in both incidents has been the presence of the College’s Emergency Operations Group, or EOG. Consisting of around 20 members and Tom Brennan, junior and student representative, the group includes administrators representing most areas of the College. The group’s primary function is to prepare the College for severe emergencies or unexpected crises.

As Director of Public Safety, Jerry Roderick is an important part of the EOG group and has been a member since it was formed. It is the responsibility of the EOG to ensure that that the College is constantly planning and actively preparing for emergencies.

The group relies heavily on its experience, and according to Roderick,  “has been together for probably seven years, and was brought together to start working on policies and procedures as well as training to respond to incidents.”

Preparation is an important focus for the group, resulting in frequent “tabletop” exercises in which the group responds to crises in a mock environment. These types of activities are considered essential to keeping the group prepared for any contingency.

“Tabletop drills act as an exercise – to test the EOG group. Last spring we reported that they [EOG members] needed to report off-campus as the threat on campus could threaten the group. We told them that a tanker threat with chemicals had made campus unsafe,” said Roderick.

In addition to tabletop exercises, the group’s preparation extends to live drills. These live tests seek to simulate real world emergencies and are carried out once per year. The most recent live drill involved rescue exercises in the Chester River.

A final important task that falls within the responsibilities of the EOG is the monitoring of potentially dangerous environmental threats. These threats include anything from hurricanes to severe snowstorms. In the event of an environmental threats, it is the EOG that will assess the dangers posed by the threat and recommend an appropriate reaction.

According to Roderick, what remains the EOG’s most notable characteristic is simply that its members are “always prepared to drop what they are doing to get the job done.”

The Emergency Operations Group can be found online by searching for the group via the College’s main webpage. The EOG page contains links to important safety information and can be used to view any alerts related to an active or impending threat.

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