Emergency Procedures

Emergency Procedure Handbook

Emergencies and disasters can occur at any time without warning. Being physically and psychologically prepared to handle unexpected emergencies is both an individual and community-wide responsibility.

This online Emergency Procedure Handbook combines current Graduate Center policies and procedures with recommended guidelines from various government agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, NYC Office of Emergency Management, NYC Fire Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Postal Service and the Centers for Disease Control. While it is impossible to produce a document that is all-inclusive, this publication addresses the most common emergencies that have occurred in the past and those that may occur in the future.

We all play a critical role during emergency response procedures. Students and visitors may not be thoroughly familiar with the building, the hazards presented, or the procedures that should be followed to ensure their health and safety in the event of an emergency. They will depend on us for immediate direction and assistance.

Please become familiar with this guide and review its contents at faculty and staff meetings. Your knowledge will make a difference during an emergency and could save lives.

If you have any questions concerning any of the information presented in this guide, please e-mail security@gc.cuny.edu.

Emergency Phone Numbers


Security & Public Safety (24 Hours)


Director of Security & Public Safety


Asst. Director of Public Safety


Environmental Health & Safety


Facilities Services & Campus Planning (Office)


Wellness Center


NYPD Non-Emergency Numbers

Graduate Center's Precinct:


Midtown South Precinct Desk


Midtown South Precinct Switchboard


Midtown South Community Affairs


Midtown South Community Policing


Midtown South Crime Prevention


Midtown South Domestic Violence


Midtown South Youth Officer


Midtown South Detective Squad


Hotline/Helpline Numbers

Child Abuse Reporting Center


Crisis Intervention Hotline


Domestic Violence Hotline


National Center for Missing & Exploited Children


Safe Horizon Crisis (Crime Victims) Hotline


Sex Crimes Report Line


Reporting an emergency

You can report an emergency in the following ways:

1. Call x7777 to contact Security & Public Safety, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

2. Call 911 to report emergencies directly to the New York City Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services. If calling 911 while on campus, also call Security & Public Safety at x7777 so we can expedite the emergency response.

3. Press the Emergency Assistance Stations located in corridors and places of public assembly throughout the building. Emergency Assistance Stations are circular in shape and lit for high visibility. Pressing the blue, center section sends a signal to the electronic security console and an officer is then sent to the station’s location.

4. Press the Emergency Tape Switches mounted on rest room walls. This device is white in color and similar to the device used on buses to request a stop. When pressed, a signal is sent to the electronic security console and an officer is then sent to that tape switch location.

5. For smoke or fire, pull the Fire Alarm Pull Boxes, which are bright red in color, located adjacent to all fire exits. Lifting the cover and pulling down the handle activates the alarm. A signal is sent to the fire command station in the main lobby and to a central dispatch station that notifies the FDNY. When pulled, this device will also activate an audible fire alarm on the floor where pulled and the floor above.

Emergency Procedures

The following is list of emergency procedures for various incidents.

Active Shooter Incidents

The personal safety of students, staff , faculty and visitors is of primary importance at The Graduate Center. In the wake of the incidents at Virginia Tech, we are reviewing our present security posture and emergency operation plans and will be looking at strategies to prevent such incidents from happening on our campus. However, a truly safe campus can only be achieved through the cooperation of the entire Graduate Center Community. Shooting incidents are often difficult to predict but many serious workplace violence incidents are preceded by warning signs that are ignored. Therefore, we must all work together to minimize the threat of violence and maintain the safety we have enjoyed at The Graduate Center. Taking the proactive measures below can help us in that effort:
  • Comply with the Graduate Center’s ID/Access policy.
  • Become familiar with CUNY’s Workplace Violence policy. A copy of the policy can be viewed at.http://www.gc.cuny.edu/About-the-GC/Resources-Services/Security-Public-Safety/Workplace-Violence
    Inform Security & Public Safety if you have a court order of protection.
  • Become familiar with all fire exits on your floor.
  • Immediately report violent incidents or threats of violence to Security & Public Safety at x7777.
  • In addition, immediately report any suspicious activity to Security & Public Safety at x7777.

In the event that there is an active shooting incident on campus, you can follow the guidelines below, depending on the situation:

If someone enters the area you are in and starts shooting:

  • Exit the building immediately only if it can be done quickly and safely.
  • While exiting, notify anyone that you encounter to do the same.
  • Do not sound the fire alarm as it may cause unknowing persons to evacuate into the danger zone.
  • Call 911 and Graduate Center Security & Public Safety at x7777 and give them the following information:
      • Your name
      • Location of the incident (be as specific as possible)
      • Number of shooters if known
      • Identification or description of the shooter(s)
      • Number and type(s) of weapons used if known (handguns, shotguns, explosive, etc.)
      • A direction of travel, if known
      • Number and location of victims and extent of injuries

If you are unable to safely evacuate

  • Go to the nearest room.
  • Close and lock the door. If possible, use rooms without windowed doors.
  • Stay away from doors and windows and stay as low to the ground as possible.
  • Keep quiet and act as if no one is in the room.
  • DO NOT answer the door unless an “all clear” announcement has been made.
  • Call 911 and Graduate Center Security & Public Safety at x7777 and give them the following information:
      • Your name
      • Location of the incident (be as specific as possible)
      • Number of shooters if known
      • Identification or description of the shooter(s)
      • Number and type(s) of weapons used if known (handguns, shotguns, explosive, etc.)
      • A direction of travel, if known
      • Number and location of victims and extent of injuries
      • Wait for NYPD and/or Security & Public Safety personnel to assist you out of the area.
      • When the police arrive, obey all commands. This may involve you being handcuffed or keeping your hands in the air. This is done for safety reasons until the situation is evaluated.

If you are caught in an open area:

  • If you can run, do not run in a straight line. Attempt to keep objects (desks, cabinets, fixtures, etc.) between you and the shooter. If outside, use vehicles and other objects to block you from the view of the shooters.
  • If you cannot run, take cover and if possible, try to hide in a well hidden space.
  • Fighting back is dangerous, but depending on your situation, this could be your last option.
  • If you are caught by the suspect and are not able to fight back, obey all commands and do not look the intruder in the eye.

If you are taken hostage:

  • Remain calm, be patient and avoid drastic action.
  • Follow the hostage taker's instructions. Do not speak unless spoken to. Avoid arguments.
  • Follow the hostage taker's instructions. Do not speak unless spoken to. Avoid arguments.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Crisis

1. An Alcohol and Drug Abuse Crisis can result from ingesting substances haphazardly or beyond an individual's normal ability to cope with the ingested amount or the consequence.

2. An alcohol or drug overdose can be rapidly fatal. Call Security & Public Safety at x7777 to request an ambulance if a person is:

  • Poorly responding to stimuli
  • Unconscious (no response to stimuli)
  • Having difficulty breathing
  • Out of control and a potential danger to self or others
  • If you aren’t sure about the physical well-being of the person

3. Before approaching or touching the person having an alcohol or drug abuse crisis, identify yourself to the individual and explain what you intend to do. Talk calmly in a non-challenging manner and orient individual to time, place, and condition if needed. Try to find out what the individual has consumed and how much, including whether alcohol was mixed with other drugs (prescription medication or illegal drugs) so responding emergency personnel can be informed.

4. Make certain someone stays with individual. If the individual wishes to lie down, have person lie on his/her left side to avoid asphyxiation.

5. If the person is convulsing, do not attempt to put any object in the mouth and do not restrain.

6. People who are under the influence of alcohol/drugs can be irrational and /or dangerous. Never put yourself at physical risk.

Bomb Threats

Bombings or threats of bombing are now harsh realities in today's world. While most bomb threats turn out to be hoaxes and most suspicious packages are harmless, it is important that all threats and suspicious objects be treated seriously. Time is of the essence when a bomb threat is received and we must be ready to react quickly and efficiently to minimize the risk of injury to students, staff, faculty and visitors. These guidelines are designed to help the Graduate Center community prepare for the potential threat of explosive-related violence. These guidelines and a Bomb Threat Checklist [PDF] should be kept next to every college telephone.

1. Telephone Threat Response - A calm response to a bomb threat caller could result in obtaining additional information. This is especially true if the caller wishes to avoid injuries or deaths. If told that the building is occupied or cannot be evacuated in time, the bomber may be willing to give more specific information on the bomb's location, components, or method of initiation. When a bomb threat is called in:

  • Keep the caller on the line as long as possible. Do not interrupt except to ask the caller to speak louder, slower or to repeat the message.
  • Record pertinent information on a Bomb Threat Checklist. Do not hang up until the caller hangs up.
  • If the caller does not indicate the location of the bomb or time of possible detonation, ask him/her for this information.
  • Inform the caller that the building is occupied and the detonation of a bomb can result in death or serious injury to many innocent people.
  • Pay particular attention to background noises, such as motors running, music playing, vehicle traffic and any other noise which may give a clue as to the location of the caller.
  • Listen closely to the voice (male or female), the mood of the caller (calm, excited, despondent, etc.), accents or speech impediments.
  • Report the threat to Security & Public Safety at x7777 immediately after the caller hangs up. Security & Public Safety will then implement its bomb threat response procedure.
  • Remain available in the event that law enforcement personnel want to interview you.

2. Written Threat Response - While written threats are usually associated with generalized threats and extortion attempts, a written warning of a specific device may occasionally be received.

  • Save all materials including the envelope.
  • Once the message is recognized as a threat, further unnecessary handling should be avoided in order to maintain evidence.
  • Report the threat to Security & Public Safety at x7777. Security & Public Safety will then implement its bomb threat response procedure.
  • Remain available in the event that law enforcement personnel want to interview you.

3. Letter and Package Bombs - While the likelihood of receiving a bomb through the mail is remote, letter or package bombs represent an alternate delivery method if the motive of the attack is to inflict injury on a specific individual. Bombs can be constructed to look like almost anything and can be placed or delivered in a number of ways. Its appearance is limited only by the imagination of the sender. However, the following characteristics may help you in identifying a suspicious letter or package:

  • Feel & Balance - Letters feel rigid, appear uneven or lopsided or are bulkier than normal. Sponginess or undue pressure can be felt through the package. Contents of the parcel may make a "sloshing" sound.
  • Place of Origin - Check the delivery postmark to see if the place of origin is familiar.
  • Foreign Packages - If the item is from another country ask yourself if it is expected. Look for foreign writing, addresses and postage.
  • Unusual Addressing or Delivery Instructions - There are unusually restrictive endorsements such as "Personal," "Private" and "Confidential" or has no return address.
  • Packaging - Packaging wrapped in string are automatically suspicious, as modern packaging materials have eliminated the need for twine or string.
  • Postage - Excess postage on small packages or letters indicate that the object was not weighed by the Post Office. No postage or non-cancelled postage should also be a warning.
  • Writing - Handwritten notes such as "Fragile," "Rush" or "Prize Enclosed," a foreign style of writing (not normally received), misspelling of common names, places or titles and mail addressed to generic or incorrect titles should be treated with caution.
  • Odor - The mail or package emits the smell of marzipan or almonds or any other peculiar odor.
  • Appearance - Leaks, stains, protruding wires, string, tape or tinfoil are present.
  • Sound - Any package that emits a buzzing, ticking or other unusual noise should be treated with caution.
  • Telephone Calls - Any packages or letters arriving before or after a phone call from an unknown person asking if the item was received is suspect.

4. If a Suspicious Package is Found

  • Under no circumstances should anyone move, jar, touch, tamper or interfere with the object or anything attached to it.
  • Report the location and an accurate description of the object to Security & Public Safety at x7777.
  • Security and Facilities personnel should not use portable radios to report a suspicious object as they can sometimes cause the premature detonation of an explosive device.
  • If possible, open all doors and windows in the area where the object is found to minimize primary damage caused by the blast and secondary damage caused by fragmentation.

5. Bomb Threat Evacuations

  • If it is determined that an evacuation is necessary, bomb threat evacuations at the Graduate Center will follow a procedure similar to the one used for fire evacuations.
  • Take personal belongings such as purses, briefcases, knapsacks and shopping bags with you so they are not confused with suspicious packages by those conducting a bomb search.
  • Know your escape route in advance. Also be prepared to use an alternate exit in case your primary route is obstructed. Pay attention to all alarms and public address system announcements.
  • Follow instructions given by Fire Wardens, Searchers, Security, NYPD and FDNY personnel.
  • Never use an elevator to evacuate unless directed to do so by the Fire Department.
  • Once outside, move well away from the building, especially away from windows.

Bomb Threat Checklist

Click here to download a Bomb Threat Checklist [PDF].

Chemical Spill

While the Graduate Center does not have laboratories, chemical and chemical products are used throughout the building for maintenance, housekeeping, reprographic and other purposes. The following should be done if a hazardous chemical is spilled in the building:

1. Immediately report any spillage of hazardous chemicals to Security at x7777.

2. When reporting the incident, be specific about the nature of the involved material and the exact location. Security will contact Facilities Services and outside emergency response agencies if necessary.

3. The affected area should be evacuated immediately and sealed off to prevent further contamination of other areas until the arrival of Security, Facilities or other emergency service personnel.

4. Anyone who may be contaminated by the spill should avoid contact with others as much as possible. Remain in the vicinity and give your name to Security & Public Safety, so any required first aid and clean up can be performed by the appropriate emergency service personnel.

5. If an emergency exists that requires a building evacuation, activate the nearest fire alarm (as a precaution also report the emergency by telephone).

Civil Disturbance

Most demonstrations such as marches, meetings, picketing and rallies are peaceful and non-obstructive. However, demonstrations can become disruptive if one or more of the following conditions exist:

  • Interference with the normal operations of the college.
  • Prevention of access to an office, building or other college facility.
  • Threat of physical harm to persons or damage to college facilities.
  • Disorderly conduct which disturbs the campus or community.

1. If any of these conditions exist, contact Security & Public Safety at x7777 and report the location, nature and size of the disturbance.

2. Continue as much as possible with your normal routine. If the disturbance is outside, stay away from doors and windows.

3. Avoid provoking or obstructing demonstrators. Do not interfere with those persons creating the disturbance or with law enforcement authorities on the scene.

Crimes in Progress

1. Do not attempt to apprehend or interfere with the criminal except in case of self-protection. If possible, move to a safe location.

2. In the event of a robbery, do not resist.

3. If safe to do so, attempt to get a good description of the criminal. If the criminal is entering a vehicle, note the license number, make, model, color and outstanding characteristics of the vehicle.

4. If you observe a crime or are a victim, call Security & Public Safety at x7777, advise the officer of the situation and give the following information:

  • Your name
  • Location of incident
  • Description of the suspects involved (clothing and physical features)
  • Injuries that have occurred
  • Description of any weapons involved
  • Description of property involved
  • The suspect's direction of travel and vehicle description (if applicable)

Make sure that the officer understands that the incident is in progress

5. If possible, stay on the line with the officer until help arrives. Keep the officer updated on any changes in the situation so responding personnel can be updated. Even if you cannot communicate, keep the line open so the officer listening in can learn more about what is happening.

6. Meet with Security & Public Safety personnel when they arrive.


While New York City is usually not associated with earthquake activity, earthquakes have occurred in the metropolitan area. It is believed that earthquakes of up to a magnitude of 6.0-6.5 on the Richter Scale are possible. This, combined with a concentration of high rise buildings, many of which were constructed prior to the implementation of seismic building code guidelines in 1996, make damaging earthquakes a potential threat. During an earthquake, remain calm and quickly follow the steps outlined below:

1. If indoors, seek refuge in a doorway or under a desk or table. Stay away from glass windows, shelves and heavy equipment.

2. If outdoors, move quickly away from buildings, utility poles and other structures. CAUTION: Always avoid power or utility lines, as they may be energized.

3. If in an automobile, stop in the safest place available, preferably away from power lines and trees. Stop as quickly as safety permits, but stay in the vehicle for the shelter it offers.

4. After the initial shock, evaluate the situation and, if emergency help is necessary, call Security & Public Safety at x7777. Be prepared for aftershocks.

5. Damaged facilities should be reported to Security & Public Safety at x7777 and Facilities Management at x7730.

6. If the building evacuation alarm is sounded, walk to the nearest marked exit and ask others to do the same.

7. Assist the disabled in exiting the building. Do not use elevators in case of fire. Do not panic. Remain calm.

8. Once outside, move to a clear area away from the affected building(s). Keep streets, fire lanes, hydrants and walkways clear from emergency vehicles and crews.

9. If requested, assist emergency crews as necessary.

10. A Campus Emergency Command Post may be set up near the disaster site. Keep clear of the Command Post unless you have official business.

11. Do not return to an evacuated building unless instructed to do so by emergency response personnel.

Elevator Failure

1. Elevators have mechanical safety brakes that will operate even during power failures.

2. Use the emergency telephone located in the front of the elevator cab to call Security & Public Safety.

3. Inform the officer if medical emergency exists.

4. Remain calm and try to keep other occupants calm.

Emergency Closing Due to Weather

In the event that prevailing weather conditions cause serious disruption to the public transportation system or make other means of traveling hazardous, The Graduate Center may be closed until conditions improve. If there is a threat of a snow emergency (Monday through Friday) when the college is scheduled to be in session, information concerning the college's status can be heard on the following radio stations or by calling the telephone numbers listed below:

Radio Stations Broadcasting CUNY Message
WADO 1280 AM  
WBLS   107.5 FM
WCBS 880 AM 101.1 FM
WFAS 1230 AM 104 FM
WINS 1010 AM  
WLIB 1190 AM  
WOR   www.wor710.com

Telephone Numbers

  • (718) 330-1234 - NYC announcements, up to the minute transportation conditions and emergency bulletins.
  • (212) 817-7000 - Graduate Center recorded message.


1. Know your escape route in advance. Also be prepared to use an alternate exit in case your primary route is obstructed. Plan how you would escape in case of a fire. Know your escape routes well enough to be able to make your way in the dark or in dense smoke.

2. Below are the fire exits/stairs for the Graduate Center:

Location in Building Serves Floors Re-Entry Exits to Street
"S" Elevator Lobbies C-9 All Floors Except 1st 5th Avenue
"T" Elevator Lobbies


All Floors Except 1st 5th Avenue
"B" Northeast Corner


2nd and 8th Madison Avenue
"C" Southeast Corner


All Floors Except 1st 34th Street
"E" North Side


1st Floor 35th Street
"X" South Side


All Floors No exit to street.  Continue to "C" Stair
"R" Mid-Building


All Floors No exit to street.  Continue to "X" Stair


3. Be aware that whenever the fire alarm sounds it may signal a very real emergency situation.

4. Remain calm and proceed to evacuate the area in an orderly manner. Do not rush, push or panic. Rely on planning and knowledge.

5. Assist disabled persons to evacuate the area. Be particularly aware of persons with sight or hearing disabilities.

6. If there is smoke, stay low, it will be easier to breathe.

7. Before opening any door, touch the door with the back of your hand. Do not open a door that is warm or hot.

8. Close doors behind you to prevent fire spread, but make sure that you can reopen them if you need to retreat.

9. Listen for instructions from:

  • Professors
  • Fire Wardens
  • Security & Public Safety Officers
  • Fire Safety Director (via public address announcements)


Evacuating Disabled Persons

Techniques for evacuating disabled persons vary with the nature of the disability. If a person with a disability cannot evacuate, they should be moved to an enclosed fire stairwell that is a good distance away from the hazard. Make sure that the Fire Command Station in the Lobby is informed of the location of the disabled person and the nature of their disability.

1. Always ask a disabled person how you can help before giving emergency evacuation assistance. Ask how they can best be assisted or moved, and if there are any special considerations or items that need to come with them.

2. For persons with mobility impairments, it may be necessary to help clear the exit route of debris, if possible.

3. For persons with a visual disability, give verbal instructions while assisting in an evacuation. Do not grasp a visually impaired person's arm. Ask if he or she would like to hold your arm as you exit, especially in crowds or debris covered areas.

4. For persons with auditory disabilities, get the attention of the person by touch or eye contact. Gestures and pointing are helpful, but be prepared to write a brief statement if that person does not seem to understand.

5. Do not use elevators unless authorized by FDNY personnel.

6. Do not attempt a rescue evacuation unless you had rescue training or the person is in immediate danger and cannot wait for professional assistance.

Explosion/Downed Aircraft

In the event a mishap occurs, such as an explosion or a downed aircraft (crash) in the area, take the following actions:

1. Immediately take cover under tables, desks and other objects that will give protection against falling glass or debris.

2. Immediately after the effects of the explosion and/or fire have subsided, notify Security & Public Safety at x7777. Give your name and describe the location and nature of the emergency.

3. If the building evacuation alarm is sounded, or when you are told to leave by emergency response personnel, walk to the nearest marked exit and ask others to do the same.

4. Assist the disabled in exiting the building. Do not use elevators in case of fire. Do not panic. Remain calm.

5. Once outside, move to a clear area away from the affected building(s). Keep streets, fire lanes, hydrants and walkways clear for emergency vehicles and crews.

6. If requested, assist emergency crews as necessary.

7. A Campus Emergency Command Post may be set up near the disaster site. Keep clear of the Command Post unless you have official business.

8. Do not return to an evacuated building unless instructed to do so by emergency response personnel.

Fire Safety

If You Discover a Fire

  • Pull the nearest fire alarm box on the floor and call 911 and Security at x7777 if possible.
  • Be prepared to give the following information (Specific conditions (smoke, fire, etc.),  Specific location (floor, room), Your name and location)
  • Notify those in the immediate area of the danger.
  • Assist in removing any disabled person from the immediate area.
  • Follow the directions of Fire Wardens and Public Safety officers.

If You Hear the Fire Alarm Sound

  • Be aware that whenever the fire alarm sounds it may signal a very real emergency situation.
  • Listen for instructions from (Professors, Fire Wardens, Security & Public Safety Officers and Fire Safety Director (via public address announcements)
  • Remain calm and proceed to evacuate the area in an orderly manner. Do not rush, push or panic. Rely on planning and knowledge.
  • Assist disabled persons to evacuate the area. Be particularly aware of persons with sight or hearing disabilities.
  • Do not go back to retrieve belongings.
  • If there is smoke, stay low, it will be easier to breathe.
  • Use the stairways indicated by emergency personnel. Never use an elevator to evacuate unless directed to do so by the fire department.
  • Before opening any door, touch the door with the back of your hand. Do not open a door that is warm or hot.
  • Close doors behind you to prevent fire spread, but make sure that you can reopen them if you need to retreat.
  • If trapped in a building with operable windows, open windows at the top to let heat and smoke out, open at the bottom to breathe.

Using a Fire Extinguisher – Fire extinguishers are located on every floor inside each fire stair. They should be used to extinguish small fires only. Insure that you have a clear escape route before using an extinguisher. An easy way to remember how to use a fire extinguisher is to remember the acronym PASS, which stands for pull, aim, squeeze and sweep.

  • PULL the pin. This will allow you to discharge the extinguisher.
  • AIM at the base of the fire. If you aim at the flames, the extinguishing agent will fly right through. You want to hit the fuel.
  • SQUEEZE the top handle lever. This depresses a button that releases the pressurized extinguishing agent.
  • SWEEP from side to side until the fire is completely out. Start using the extinguisher from a safe distance away, and then move forward. Once the fire is out, keep an eye on the area in case it re-ignites.

4. Special Instructions for Persons with Disabilities

  • Persons with disabilities should become familiar with the emergency procedures established for The Graduate Center.
  • Know the location of all fire exits and stairwells.
  • Taking into consideration the nature of your disability, plan how you would respond to an emergency. This should be done for every floor that you enter since the layout is different on some floors.
  • Discuss your plans with your EO, APO, Professors and Fire Warden(s) assigned to your department or program.

Flooding or Plumbing Failure

1. Stop all use of electric equipment.

2. Call Facilities Services at x7730 and Security and Public Safety at x7777.

3. Evacuate the area if necessary.

Gas Leak

1. Cease all operations and notify Security & Public Safety at x7777. Security & Public Safety will contact Facilities Services and outside emergency response agencies if necessary.

2. Exit the area immediately.

3. To avoid sparks, leave all electrical equipment, i.e. lights, computers, appliances, etc., as is. Electrical arcing can trigger an explosion.

Handling Suspicious Mail

Recommendations of the FBI, U.S. Postal Service, and the Centers for Disease Control for identifying and handling suspicious mail and dealing with powder spills from letters and packages are listed below. Although any threatened use of a biological agent must be treated seriously, experience has demonstrated that most threats are likely to be hoaxes. Disease can be prevented after exposure to anthrax spores by early treatment with the appropriate antibiotics. Anthrax is not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person.

1. How to Identify Suspicious Packages and Letters - Notify Security at x7777 if you receive a suspicious letter or package. Some characteristics of suspicious packages and letters include the following:

2. How to Handle Suspicious Unopened Letters or Packages

3. What to Do if Powder Spills Out of an Envelope

4. What to Do if a Room is Contaminated by Aerosolization - Anthrax or other biological agents can also be delivered in an aerosol form. In order to be effective it must be aerosolized into very small particles. This is difficult to do, and requires a great deal of technical skill and special equipment. The following steps should be taken if informed that an unknown substance has been released in this manner:


A hostage situation is said to exist when a person(s) is held or confined against his or her will by one or more individuals. This can occur with or without force or the threat of force and with or without a weapon. Usually, certain demands are made in return for the release of the hostage(s). Hostage takers can be terrorists, fleeing felons, emotionally disturbed persons and past or present disgruntled employees. It should be noted that The Graduate Center's Security & Public Safety personnel are unarmed and will require the assistance of the NYPD in all hostage situations.

1. If you are a witness to a hostage situation:

a. Notify Security & Public Safety at x7777 immediately and be prepared to tell the officer the following:

b. Alert others in the immediate are of the situation.

c. Evacuate from the area.

d. If you are unable to evacuate safely, lock and close your door until notified by NYPD that it is safe to leave.

2. If you are taken hostage:

a. Remain calm, be patient and avoid drastic action.

b. Follow the hostage taker's instructions. Do not speak unless spoken to. Avoid arguments.

c. Stay alert and be observant. You may be released or escape. The personal safety of others may depend on your memory.

d. Be prepared to answer the police on the telephone.

Medical Emergency

1. Call 911 immediately for any accident or sudden illness that impairs functioning. Conditions where 911 must be called include:

  • unconsciousness, however brief
  • chest pains
  • poisoning
  • incapacitating head, abdominal or other pain
  • impaired breathing
  • profuse bleeding
  • disorientation or impaired ambulation.

2. Be prepared to give the 911 operator the following information:

  • Location of the medical emergency
  • Sex and approximate age of the patient
  • Condition of patient (conscious, unconscious, difficulty breathing, chest pain, etc.)

3. After calling 911, Security and Public Safety (x7777) should also be contacted to assist with first aid and expedite emergency service response.

4. Don not attempt to administer first aid or CPR unless you have received prior certified training.

Power Failure

  1. If you are in an area where power has failed, call Security & Public Safety at x7777, providing the officer with your name, location and department. Describe the nature of the problem and any additional locations that are without power.
  2. If the power failure occurs during daylight hours, open blinds and doors to maximize available outside light.
  3. The Graduate Center is equipped with emergency lighting. If the lights are out, proceed cautiously to an area that has emergency lights.
  4. If you are trapped in an elevator, remain calm and use the emergency telephone or call button.
  5. Should an electrical or mechanical systems failure occur in the building, it may become necessary to evacuate the facility. Security & Public Safety will seek input from Facilities Services prior to making a decision.
  6. Security & Public Safety personnel will advise you when to evacuate the building. If requested, evacuate the building immediately. After evacuating from the building move away from the building's entrance.
  7. Assist persons with disabilities in exiting the building.

Psychological Crisis

A psychological crisis exists when an individual is threatening harm to himself/herself or to others, or is out of touch with reality due to a severe drug reaction or a psychotic break. Hallucinations, uncontrollable behavior, or complete withdrawal may manifest a psychotic break.

  • 1. To report a psychological crisis call Security & Public Safety at x7777 and tell the officer the following:
  • Your name
  • Your location
  • The nature and location of the incident
  • Clearly state that you need immediate assistance

2. If it is safe to do so, stay on the line until an officer arrives.

3. Never try to deal with a potentially dangerous situation by yourself. Report any suicide attempt to Security & Public Safety so that the proper procedures may be followed in order to ensure the safety of the victim.

Severe Weather

1. Hurricanes – Hurricanes are destructive storms with sustained winds of more than 74 miles per hour. Winds can flatten homes, topple trees and turn loose objects into deadly projectiles. The storm's driving winds and torrential rains can cause massive and dangerous flooding in low-lying and poor-drainage areas. Hurricane season lasts from June to November and New York City is most at risk between August and October.

  • When a Hurricane Watch is announced, it means a hurricane may affect New York City within 36 hours of the announcement. The City of New York would activate its Emergency Operations Center on a 24-hour basis at the Office of Emergency Management.
  • Listen to local media (television and radio) for instructions.
  • Find out if you live in one of New York City's hurricane evacuation zones. Residents of an evacuation zone would have to follow special procedures if a hurricane seems likely to make landfall near New York City. Evacuees would need to seek shelter farther inland, with friends or family outside of the storm surge area. During a Hurricane Watch, residents should think carefully about where they would go if evacuation instructions were issued.

Prepare to be self-sufficient for at least three days without help or emergency services. Assume that many of the streets and stores in your neighborhood will be closed. Disruptions to electricity, gas, water or telephone service may also occur.

2. Tornadoes - Though infrequent, tornadoes have occurred in New York City. In October 1985, an F1 tornado touched town in Queens, injuring six people. In August 1990, an F0 tornado struck Staten Island, injuring three people. And in October 1995, a more intense F1 tornado struck Staten Island again, causing some property damage, but no injuries.

Go to the basement or the lowest point in a building. If an underground shelter is not available, move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.

  • Stay away from windows.
  • Get out of automobiles.
  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car; leave it immediately for safe shelter.
  • If you cannot find shelter, take cover in a ditch or other recessed area and cover your head with your hands. Do NOT take cover under an overpass or bridge.
  • Avoid places with wide-span roofs, such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways or shopping malls.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines and stay away from damaged areas.
  • Listen to the radio for information and instructions.

Sexual Assault

1. Should you become a sex crime victim on or near the campus or college-arranged housing, the college recommends a prompt report to both the NYPD (911) and Security & Public Safety (x7777) so that the public interest can be served. Reporting an incident helps:

  • Identify and apprehend the assailant
  • Maintains future options regarding criminal and civil action against the assailant
  • Protects the victim and others from future assaults from the same assailant

2. Reporting an incident is a separate step from choosing to prosecute. Our first concern is the victim’s welfare and ensuring that proper treatment and support is provided. When a person files a report they are not obligated to continue with legal proceedings.

3. Emergency Medical Services will be summoned for anyone apparently requiring or requesting medical attention.

4. The preservation of evidence including biological, chemical, and environmental substances may be essential to successful prosecution; victims are urged to obtain emergency medical treatment before washing, laundering apparel, or discarding wipes.

5. Local telephone service and assistance will be provided to facilitate notifications, victim services, and transportation arrangements. In addition, Graduate Center counseling professionals will do all they can to assist a victim of sexual assault including help in changing academic and life situations, if requested by the victim and if these changes are reasonably available.

Sheltering in Place

Sheltering in place simply means seeking immediate shelter inside a building. This course of action may be necessary during a release of toxic chemicals to the outside air. Air quality may be threatened and sheltering in place keeps you inside an area offering more protection.

  1. Stay inside the building.
  2. Close all doors and windows.
  3. Seal off openings to your room if possible.
  4. Do not use elevators as they may pump air through the building.
  5. Remain in place until you are told that it is safe to leave.


Title 22 of the US Code, Section 2656f(d) defines terrorism as the premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. Acts of terrorism range from threats of terrorism, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, bomb scares and bombings, computer based cyber attacks, to the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. High-risk targets include military and civilian government facilities, international airports, large cities and high-profile landmarks. Terrorists might also target large public gatherings, water and food supplies, utilities, and corporate centers.

In the immediate area of a terrorist event, you would need to rely on police, fire and other officials for instructions. However, you can prepare in much the same way you would prepare for other crisis events.

1. Preparing for Terrorism - Wherever you are, be aware of your surroundings. The very nature of terrorism suggests there may be little or no warning.

  •  Take precautions when traveling.  Be aware of conspicuous or unusual  behavior.  Do not accept packages from strangers.  Do not leave luggage  unattended.  Unusual behavior, suspicious packages and  strange devices  should be promptly reported to the police or security personnel.
  • Do not be afraid to move or leave if you feel uncomfortable or if something does not seem right.
  • Learn where emergency exits are located in buildings you frequent. Notice where exits are when you enter unfamiliar buildings. Plan how to get out of a building, subway or congested public area or traffic. Note where staircases are located. Notice heavy or breakable objects that could move, fall or break in an explosion.
  • Assemble a disaster supply kit at home and learn first aid. Separate the supplies you would take if you had to evacuate quickly, and put them in a backpack or container, ready to go.
  • Be familiar with different types of fire extinguishers and how to locate them.

2. Chemical Attack - Chemical warfare agents are poisonous vapors, aerosols, liquids or solids that have toxic effects. They can be released by bombs, sprayed from airplanes, boats, or vehicles, or used as a liquid to create a hazard to people and the environment. Some chemical agents may be odorless and tasteless. They can have an immediate effect (a few seconds to a few minutes) or a delayed effect (several hours to several days). General indicators of possible chemical agent usage include:

  • Unusual number of dead or dying animals (lack of insects).
  • Unexplained casualties (multiple victims, serious illness, nausea, disorientation, difficulty breathing, convulsions, etc.).
  • Unusual liquid, spray or vapor (droplets, oily film, unexplained odors, low clouds/fog that is not weather related).
  • Suspicious devices/packages (unusual metal debris, abandoned spray devices, unexplained munitions).

3. Biological Attack - Biological warfare agents are organisms or toxins that can kill or incapacitate people. The three basic groups of biological agents that would likely be used as weapons are bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Most biological agents are difficult to grow and maintain. Many break down quickly when exposed to sunlight and other environmental factors, while others such as anthrax are very long lived. Some biological agents, such as anthrax, do not cause contagious diseases. Others, like the smallpox virus, can result in diseases you can catch from other people. They can be dispersed by spraying them in the air, or infecting animals that carry the disease to humans as well as through food and water contamination. General indicators of possible biological agent usage include:

  • Unusual number of dead or dying animals/fish.
  • Unusual illness for the region/area.
  • Unusual liquids, sprays or vapors.

4. What to Do In Case of Chemical or Biological Attack - Protection of breathing airways is the single most important thing a person can do in the event of a chemical or biological incident or attack. In most cases, absent a handy gas mask, the only sure way to protect an airway is to put distance between you and the source of the agent. While evacuating the area, cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief, coat sleeve or any piece of cloth to provide some moderate means of protection. Other basic steps one can take to avoid or mitigate exposure to chemical or biological agents include:

  • Stay alert for attack warning signs. Early detection enhances survival.
  • Move upwind from the source of the attack.
  • If evacuation from the immediate area is impossible, move indoors (if outside) and upward to an interior room on a higher floor. Many agents are heavier than air and will tend to stay close to the ground.
  • Once indoors, close all windows and exterior doors and shut down air conditioning or heating systems to prevent circulation of air.
  • Cover your mouth and nose. If gas masks are not available, use a surgical mask or a handkerchief. An improvised mask can be made by soaking a clean cloth in a solution of 1 tablespoon of baking soda in a cup of water. While this is not highly effective, it may provide some protection.
  • Cover bare arms and legs and make sure any cuts or abrasions are covered or bandaged.
  • If splashed with an agent, immediately wash it off using copious amounts of warm soapy water.
  • If in a car, shut off outside air intake vents and roll up windows if no gas has entered the vehicle. Late model cars may provide some protection from toxic agents.
  • In any case of suspected exposure to chemical or biological agents, no matter what the origin, medical assistance should be sought as soon as possible, even if no symptoms are immediately evident.

5. Radiation Attack - A radiation threat or "Dirty Bomb" is the use of common explosives to spread radioactive materials over a targeted area. It is not a nuclear blast. The force of the explosion and the radioactive contamination will be more localized. While the blast will be immediately obvious, the presence of radiation will not be clearly defined until trained personnel with specialized equipment are on the scene. As with any radiation, you want to try to limit exposure. To limit the amount of radiation you are exposed to, think about shielding, distance and time:

  • Shielding: If you have a thick shield between yourself and the radioactive material more of the radiation will be absorbed, and you will be exposed to less.
  • Distance: The farther away you are from the blast and the fallout the lower your exposure.
  • Time: Minimizing time spent exposed will also reduce your risk.

As with any emergency, local authorities may not be able to immediately provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet often for official news and information as it becomes available.

Ventilation Problems

If smoke or odors come from the ventilation system, immediately notify Security & Public Safety at x7777. Security & Public Safety will contact Facilities Services. If necessary, cease all operations and vacate the area.

Workplace Violence

Many workplaces are at risk for workplace violence and, unfortunately, a college environment is not immune. The Graduate Center is committed to preventing workplace violence, and ensuring a safe and healthful work environment for all members of the college community.

Certain campus workplace situations are recognized as presenting significantly greater risks than others. Therefore, every campus office or department should perform an initial assessment to identify its particular workplace security issues. If that assessment determines the college employees are at significant risk, the responsible manager or supervisor should contact Security & Public Safety.

1. Is your workplace at risk? There are a number of factors that have been shown to contribute to the risk of violence in a College workplace. If one or more of the following situations or activities is present in your workplace, then consider your workplace to be at potential risk of violence:

  • Exchange of money.
  • Working alone at night and during early morning hours.
  • Availability of valued items, e.g., money and jewelry.
  • Availability of prescription drugs.
  • Working with employees or students known or suspected to have a history of violence.
  • Employees or former employees, with a history of assaults or who exhibit belligerent, intimidating or threatening behavior.
  • Employees who have been the object of belligerent, intimidating or threatening behavior from family members or significant others.

2. Recognizing Inappropriate Employee Behavior - Inappropriate behavior is often a warning sign of potential hostility or violence. When left unchecked it can escalate to higher levels. Employees or students who exhibit the following behaviors should be reported to a supervisor and Security & Public Safety for investigation and follow-up:

  • Unwelcome name-calling, obscene language, and other abusive behavior and intimidation through direct or veiled threats.
  • Throwing objects in the workplace regardless of the size or type of object being thrown or whether a person is the target of a thrown object.
  • Physically touching another employee in an intimidating, malicious or sexually harassing manner. That includes such acts as hitting, slapping, poking, kicking, pinching, grabbing, and pushing.

3. Warning Signs of Potentially Violent Individuals - There are a number of factors that have been shown to contribute to the risk of workplace violence. However, there is no exact method to predict when a person will become violent. One or more of these warning signs may be displayed before a person becomes violent but does not necessarily indicate that an individual will become violent. A display of these signs should trigger concern as they're usually exhibited by people experiencing problems.

  • History of violent behavior.
  • Irrational beliefs and ideas.
  • Verbal, nonverbal or written threats or intimidation.
  • Fascination with other recent incidents of workplace violence and approval of the use of violence under similar circumstances.
  • Fascination with weaponry and/or acts of violence.
  • Carrying a concealed weapon or flashing a weapon to test reactions.
  • Expressions of a plan to hurt himself/herself or others.
  • Externalizing blame.
  • Unreciprocated romantic obsession with a co-worker or student. This interest may be so intense that the co-worker/student will feel threatened and may report the unwanted attention under the Sexual Harassment policy.
  • Taking up much of a supervisor's time with behavior or performance problems.
  • Fear reaction among coworkers or students.
  • Drastic change in belief system.
  • Displays of unwarranted anger.
  • New or increased source of stress at home or work.
  • Inability to take criticism. Holding a grudge, especially against a supervisor.
  • Feelings of being victimized.
  • Intoxication from alcohol and other substances.
  • Expressions of hopelessness or heightened anxiety.
  • Productivity and/or attendance problems.
  • Destruction of property.
  • Steals or sabotages projects or equipment.
  • Intentional disregard or lack of concern for the safety of others.

4. Personal Conduct to Minimize Violence - Follow these suggestions in your daily interactions with people to de-escalate potentially violent situations. If at any time a person's behavior starts to escalate beyond your comfort zone, disengage.


  • Project calmness: move and speak slowly, quietly and confidently.
  • Be an empathetic listener. Encourage the person to talk. Listen patiently.
  • Focus your attention on the other person to let them know you are interested in what they have to say.
  • Maintain a relaxed yet attentive posture and position yourself at a right angle rather than directly in front of the person.
  • Acknowledge the person's feelings. Indicate that you can see that he or she is upset.
  • Ask for small specific favors such as asking the person to move to a quieter area.
  • Establish ground rules if unreasonable behavior exists. Calmly describe the consequences of any violent behavior.
  • Use delay tactics, which will give the person time to calm down. For example, offer a drink of water in a plastic cup (never offer a glass container or hot beverage).
  • Ask uninvolved parties to leave the area to summon help if this can be done safely. Use a prearranged code word to alert your supervisor or co-worker to call Security.
  • Be reassuring and point out choices. Break big problems into smaller more manageable problems.
  • Accept criticism in a positive way. When a complaint might be true, use statements like "You're probably right" or "It was my fault." If the criticism seems unwarranted, ask clarifying questions.
  • Ask for his/her recommendations. Repeat back what you feel he/she is requesting of you.
  • Arrange yourself so your access to an exit is not blocked.
  • Above all, trust your instincts. If the situation deteriorates to a level where your safety is in jeopardy, escape at the first opportunity and notify Security & Public Safety at x7777.
  • Use styles of communication, which generate hostility such as apathy, brush off, coldness, condescension, going strictly by the rules or giving the run-around.
  • Reject all of a client's demands from the start.
  • Pose in challenging stances such as standing directly opposite someone, hands on hips or crossing your arms.
  • Make any physical contact, finger-point or have long periods of fixed eye contact.
  • Make sudden movements that can be seen as threatening. Notice the tone, volume and rate of your speech.
  • Challenge, threaten, or dare the individual. Never belittle the person making him/her feel foolish.
  • Criticize or act impatiently toward the agitated individual.
  • Attempt to bargain with a threatening individual.
  • Try to make the situation seem less serious than it is.
  • Make false statements or promises you cannot keep.
  • Try to impart a lot of technical or complicated information when emotions are high.
  • Take sides or agree with distortions.
  • Invade the individual's personal space. Make sure there is a space of 3' to 6' between you and the person.