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Emergency Preparedness and International Student/Scholar Updates

Since September 11, 2001, New York City has been under a heightened security alert (orange). And, on March 17, 2003, the U.S. government raised its national terror threat level from yellow ("elevated") to orange ("high").

While there have been no specific threats indicating Columbia University as a potential target of a terrorist act, it is important to be prepared in these difficult times. Since September 11, 2001, Columbia has actively reviewed and revised, when appropriate, our emergency procedures. Recently, we increased security on the campuses, at the gates, at our loading docks, and at entrances to campus parking garages.

Columbia is well prepared to respond to any emergency. We have procedures in place in the event of an emergency related to current international events. The University has established an operations center with emergency management teams ready to take appropriate action for the safety of the Columbia community. In addition to maintaining frequent contact with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies for the most up to date information, we work closely with the New York City Police Department and the precincts near the Morningside Heights and Health Sciences campuses.

In the event of an actual occurrence, Columbia will follow instructions from the NYC Police Department and the NYC Office of Emergency Management. The answer to the question of where to go in an emergency will vary depending on the circumstances, location, and nature of the emergency. If the incident occurs near or on campus and you are inside a residence hall or other University building, follow instructions from emergency personnel and building supervisors as to whether to stay put or to leave. If an alarm is sounded in the building, evacuate immediately and follow instructions. As a general rule, it is always a good idea to be aware of emergency exits in buildings you frequent. If you are outside on the campus, follow instructions from emergency personnel or uniformed security officers.

This may seem obvious to many, but if an emergency occurs, stay away from the area. By going to the site, you could either add to the confusion or become another victim.

A student information center will be immediately activated to provide students with up-to-the-minute instructions. For students on the Morningside Heights campus, an emergency information center will be set up in the lobby of Alfred Lerner Hall. If events disabled Lerner, Wien Hall will be the backup. Televisions, computers and telephones will be available in the information center. On the Health Sciences campus, an emergency information center will be set up in Alumni Auditorium.

The University rarely closes. We plan to continue business as usual. However, if it should become necessary for the safety of our community to cancel an event or close, information will be made available through our Web site, and local television and radio stations.

Emergency information will also be available and updated on the Columbia homepage, as well as through campus-wide emails and voice mails, if and when appropriate. The main University telephone number, (212) 854-1754, will provide brief recorded announcements and direct callers to current information. The University will keep local television, radio stations and print media posted on updates and changes.

For families of students, a toll-free telephone number, 877-905-4667, has been established to provide information. Since telephone systems are often flooded during a crisis, we recommend that students and their families develop a plan ahead of time to communicate with each other. Usually in an emergency, there is more capacity for outgoing calls than for incoming calls. We therefore recommend that students try to contact their families first.

For those parents who are wondering if they should come pick up their students in the event of a war, that is a personal decision. Again, we have no information at this time of any specific threats to the University.

The entire Columbia community can -- and should -- play a part in our security. Be vigilant and observant. Report suspicious activities or behavior to security immediately, as well suspicious items, such as unattended packages or containers and unusual odors or substances.

To report an emergency:

  • On the Morningside campus, call security at 212-854-2797, 212-854-5555, or 99;
  • On the Health Sciences campus, call 305-7979;
  • At Lamont or Nevis, call 911.

Students, faculty and staff are urged to carry Columbia ID with them in case it is necessary for entrance to certain campus buildings.

Click to view Questions and Answers about Columbia's emergency preparedness.

Click to view International Student/Scholar Information.

Published: Mar 19, 2003
Last modified: May 01, 2003

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