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Updated Oct. 31, 2001

Section 1. About preparedness
Section 2. About the Oct. 22 anthrax scare at Frist
Section 3. About anthrax


Section 1. About preparedness

How is the University responding to the anthrax threat?

Every report of a potential threat to public safety is treated seriously and handled according to law enforcement and health guidelines established by state and federal authorities. The University is extremely concerned for the well-being of all members of our community and all campus visitors and is taking necessary precautions.
   Princeton University has a number of safety, medical and public health professionals with ongoing responsibilities for the safety and health of the University community. Through contacts with professional colleagues as well as local, county, state and federal authorities, these individuals are developing and updating our anthrax response efforts on a daily basis to reflect the latest available information.
   Recently, an Emergency Preparedness Task Force was established by the University's Environmental, Safety and Risk Management Committee. Among the clear mandates of this group will be to review and update existing emergency preparedness and response procedures, ensure coordination of efforts among the various University departments and, where appropriate, develop additional capabilities in light of the ongoing national crisis.

How is information about safety concerns distributed?

Important safety alerts are posted directly on the University's home page, which should be checked frequently. Other useful updates, information and Web links are posted on the Crisis Response page, which can be accessed directly from the home page.

How will I be notified if there is an emergency?

In the event of a campuswide emergency, the University will distribute instructions by whichever means of mass communication seem most appropriate. Those means include: the home page; e-mail; voice mail; leaflets and posters; radio and cable broadcasts; and in-person instructions from University officials.

What should I do if an emergency arises and I am among the first to notice?

Call 911 for an immediate response from Public Safety. If you are not near a phone, exit the building and find the nearest campus blue light phone.
   If you are not experiencing an emergency but are worried about a perceived threat or rumor, please first check the Web for information. If you do not have Web access, call the Response line, 258-7700.

Is there anything I can do to better prepare myself for an emergency?

Be aware of your surroundings. Know the locations of the closest building exits and University telephones including the blue light phones located throughout campus. Establish a routine of checking the University home page at least once per day. Familiarize yourself with procedures on the Campus Emergency Preparedness and Response Web site including the emergency evacuation plan for your building.
    In the unlikely event of temporary displacement, on-campus residents should consider keeping a "personal safety bag" that includes ready cash, a list of key phone numbers, bottled water, non-perishable snacks, a flashlight with fresh batteries and a warm jacket or small blanket.

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Section 2. About the Oct. 22 "anthrax scare" at Frist

The results are in -- no anthrax at Frist

The University was notified Oct. 29 by state officials that the final test results of the powdery substance found in Frist Campus Center Oct. 22 are negative, which means no anthrax was detected.

On Monday, Oct. 22, a student noticed a suspicious powdery substance on a computer and its keyboard. The University took precautionary measures, including calling a HAZMAT team that decontaminated the area and sent the substance to the state for testing.

Why didn't the University test everyone who may have been in Frist for anthrax?

The University follows New Jersey and federal guidelines regarding anthrax testing of substances, surfaces and people. The University does not have independent means of conducting such tests. External authorities are responding to emergencies on a priority basis and will not conduct such tests unless a credible anthrax threat has been established.

What does it take to qualify as a credible anthrax threat?

The University will not publicly issue law enforcement guidelines or other information that, if released, could threaten the security of the campus. Currently, the University asks those on campus to remain cautious regarding suspicious letters and packages. As usual, any suspicious activity on campus should be reported to Public Safety at 258-3134.

What will the University do if anthrax is found on campus?

State and federal authorities will intercede immediately if anthrax is found on campus. A notification system to initiate their involvement is already in place. If such an event were to occur, the campus community would be promptly notified. If there is a high likelihood that someone has contracted anthrax, treatment can be initiated at McCosh Health Center. The Princeton Medical Center can also test and treat for anthrax.
   The University will work hard to notify parents and other concerned parties promptly. Parents and others are encouraged to check the University home page for alerts and the Crisis Response site for other useful information.

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Section 3. About anthrax

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued frequently asked questions about anthrax. The following questions are particularly pertinent to campus members.

I just received mail from Princeton University and I am afraid it passed through a post office that has tested positive for anthrax. What should I do?

The University sends many bulk mailings that are not mailed through local post offices. Most bulk mail sent by the Alumni Council is mailed from New York. Most bulk mail sent by the offices of annual giving, development or the president is mailed from Connecticut. Recently, the undergraduate admission office began rerouting mail out of local post offices through other New Jersey facilities.
    Some mail has been processed through the Princeton post office in West Windsor that was closed due to positive tests for a small quantity of anthrax. Federal and state officials emphasize that there is very low likelihood of cross contamination, such as one letter picking up anthrax simply from having touched or being located near another letter or item that contained anthrax.
    If you are concerned about receiving mail from the University, you should follow the anthrax threat guidelines for handling mail. If you open any mail that contains a suspicious powder substance, you should follow the guidelines and immediately notify proper authorities.

Is it true that the FBI has been on site and is investigating whether anthrax can be manufactured on campus?

FBI officials have been on campus several times since Sept. 11 to ascertain what our safety procedures are and to inform our safety officials of the latest developments in the national crisis. The University has not been targeted, as the FBI has taken similar precautionary measures with other institutions of higher education and other high-profile institutions in the state. The University does not have any research or programs involving anthrax.

Since Princeton is so close to the Hamilton and West Windsor post offices where anthrax was detected, do I need to take special precautions when handling mail?

The University's mail personnel have been trained on how to detect and handle suspicious letters and packages. Similar training has been given to other offices that routinely receive large quantities of mail.
   The University community should remain alert to suspicious mail but should be most cautious when receiving direct mail, packages and deliveries. Guidelines are posted on the Campus Emergency Preparedness and Response Web site.

What do I do first if I open mail and a powder-like substance emerges?

If you receive a suspicious package or envelope, please call Public Safety at 911 or 8-3134. Do not worry about burdening the Public Safety department. It is prepared to handle increased requests.

If you receive a suspicious item in the mail, follow the steps below:

  1. Do NOT shake, bump or try to OPEN the mail.
  2. If there is spilled powder, do not try to clean it up. Do not smell, touch or taste the material.
  3. Either leave the mail where you found it, or carefully place it in a clear, sealable plastic bag, such as a freezer-sized, zip-lock bag. Do not attempt to open the mail inside the bag.
  4. If you are wearing protective gloves, remove them and place them in a sealable plastic bag.
  5. Calmly alert others in the immediate area. Leave the area, closing the door behind you. Do not let anyone other than safety officials enter the area.
  6. Wash your hands and exposed skin vigorously with soap and flowing water for at least 20 seconds. Antibacterial lotions that do not require water are not effective for removing anthrax
  7. Call Public Safety at 911 or 8-3134 and give them your exact location.
  8. Wait for Public Safety to respond. Do not leave the building unless instructed to do so by Public Safety personnel.

Do I need to wear gloves when opening mail?

When opening suspicious mail, open it far from your face. Wear latex or vinyl gloves if you have open cuts or sores on your hands. If you do not know whether you are allergic to latex, avoid latex gloves. Some gloves are pre-powdered, so do not be alarmed by a powder residue when you remove the gloves. University bulk mail handlers must attend training sessions.

Is the University concerned that those who are responsible for the nearby anthrax cases may be in the vicinity?

The welfare of our community and our extended campus family is always of deep concern to the University. The presence of anthrax at the Hamilton and West Windsor facilities, however, does not prove that the perpetrators are or remain nearby. In fact, mail collected from more distant locations in the state is processed through these local postal facilities.

What can I do to help minimize fears?

There are common sense steps that members of the University community can take to help minimize anxiety and reduce false alarms. If you use a powder or sugar-like substance, please pay attention and clean up spills rather than leaving them for others to discover. When mailing letters, even interoffice, make sure they have a standard return address.
   Try to confirm information and the source of rumors. Do not circulate inaccurate information. Please use and refer others to official information such as that from University and government authorities, rather than e-mail chains or unreliable news organizations.
   Finally, if you need to talk to someone at the University about your fears or concerns, a list of University response resources is available on the Crisis Response Web site or call the Response line at 609-258-7700.

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© 2001 The Trustees of Princeton University  Last modified 10/31/01