As the nation prepares to mark the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks, UGA’s Office of Security Preparedness is hosting a month of activities aimed at better preparing faculty, staff and students to respond to disasters.
“As much as we’d like to think someone will be available to help during emergencies, the reality is that there are not enough law enforcement or health-care personnel to respond to everyone during large-scale man-made or natural disasters,” says Opal Haley, security preparedness director at UGA. “And we also need to be better informed about handling smaller emergencies such as fires that crop up at home or at work.”
UGA’s participation in National Preparedness Month is being held in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s own observance. That program was begun last year to increase public awareness about the importance of individuals preparing for emergencies.
“UGA administrators established this office in 2002 to help the university identify possible security threats and provide faculty, staff and students with information and education on security issues,” Haley says. “One of our goals for taking part in the National Preparedness Month is to make our employees and students aware of the resources that are available at UGA, in Athens-Clarke County and in the state of Georgia for planning and handling emergencies.”
UGA will officially launch its observance Sept. 7 with the opening of a month-long lecture series (see box at right). Among the topics to be discussed by various experts are identity theft, agrosecurity of food supplies, suicide terrorists, weapons of mass destruction and the historic use of diseases as weapons.
The office also will host an emergency preparedness showcase on Sept. 22 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the plaza of the Tate Student Center. The location, according to Haley, will provide an opportunity to reach students as well as faculty and staff.
“It is extremely important to make students aware of how to prepare for emergencies,” she says. “This is the world they are going to live and work in, and we would be remiss not to provide them with the knowledge they will need to deal with emergency situations they may face in the future.”
During the showcase exhibit, emergency vehicles will be on display. And representatives from local, state and national agencies as well as the university will be on hand to answer questions. Several emergency organizations will be seeking volunteers and faculty, staff and students are encouraged to volunteer to help others during emergencies. All visitors to the showcase will be eligible to register for a prize drawing for an emergency radio, donated for the occasion.
One goal of the showcase and the lecture series is to stimulate discussion about a topic that often has a negative connotation, according to Haley.
“As a rule, people are unduly apprehensive when it comes to talking about disasters,” she says. “But knowledge saves lives, and the more you know the better off you’ll be when these situations arise.”