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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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WEB UPDATE: City ups security in wake of attacks

Posted Thursday, Aug. 4, 12:20 p.m. Students returning to D.C. this fall will notice more police patrols in the Metro system and increased surveillance of trains and buses as a result of the July bombings of the London transit system.

The Department of Homeland Security elevated the terror alert level for U.S. mass transit systems from code yellow, or elevated, to code orange, or high, on July 7 after terrorists killed more than 50 people with targeted bombings on three subway cars and one bus. Four additional minor explosions hit London subways July 21, resulting in some injuries but no deaths.

Since the London bombings, D.C. Metro Transit Police said they have taken multiple steps to enhance security.

“We have increased surveillance and deployed special response teams and explosive detection-trained dogs,” Metro Transit Police spokeswoman Kathy Asato said, adding that random bag searches are “something we are looking into, but no decision has been made.”

While New York City and New Jersey are performing random bag checks on subways and trains, D.C. Metro Police officials said they spent last week observing and learning from these searches but have not yet followed suit.

Asato said Metro Transit Police officials have done “everything we can to ensure the safety of the customers, employees and stations,” but added that citizens should be vigilant.

“Be on the lookout for suspicious people, behavior, and unattended items and report anything to the Metro employees (wearing) fluorescent orange vests,” she said.

Paul Contos, a senior who rode the New York City subway days after the first round of London attacks, said that he feels more safe on the D.C. Metro compared to its New York counterpart. While he said safety on the tracks is somewhat better in the District, he still felt apprehensive on recent trips on the Metro.

“During evening rush hour I would say I feel like I’m part of a vulnerable crowd,” he said.

GW’s location in downtown Washington and high student use of D.C. mass-transit systems warrant preparedness, said John Petrie, GW’s assistant vice president for public safety and emergency management.

Petrie said that if an attack does occur, one of the most critical elements of GW’s emergency preparedness plan consists of informing students about the proper course of action.

The principle way of notifying students is through the campus advisory Web page at There is also an emergency announcing system, breaking news service text messages and WRGW radio announcements.

The emergency announcing system consists of University Police Department SUV’s and vans equipped with public address systems and a text message service that gives subscribers a brief message such as “Incident in progress, seek shelter” during an emergency.

Despite terrorist threats, the GW study abroad program has not noticed any apprehension from students planning to study overseas during the fall semester, said Donna Scarborough, assistant vice president for GW special and international programs.

“Students have the right to think the University gave thought to their safety and made sure the programs have good safety protocols in place with their partners,” Scarborough said. “Other countries and programs may do things differently, but we have awareness and expectations of safety procedures and are highly confident in them.”

Petrie said that immediately following the July 7 London attacks, he contacted GW’s study abroad office to confirm the safety of two interns and multiple students participating in the University’s summer Oxford program, which concluded July 21.

To prepare students for an emergency in the city, GW, in conjunction with the Red Cross, D.C. Emergency Management Agency and the fire department, will hold a safety fair on University Yard on Aug. 31.

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