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Vol. LX, No. 21
October 17, 2008

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Have a question about some aspect of working at NIH? You can post anonymous queries at (click on the Feedback icon) and we’ll try to provide answers.

Feedback: I have two story suggestions: 1. NIH evacuation plans/security update. In particular, I’d like to know what plans and procedures are in place to help employees evacuate the main campus if there is a major security incident here or in D.C. For example: several of the exits from the main campus are gated off during the middle of the day. Is there a plan to immediately open those gates if employees need to evacuate quickly? I can’t see how employees will be able to exit without encountering traffic jams if everyone tries to leave campus at once. Like many NIH’ers, I’m a parent and I would be quite panicked if I couldn’t get to my child at her off-campus location. Also, I think we could use an update on shelter-in-place policies and where we could safely go on campus. And what evacuation policies are in place for the children at the NIH day care centers?

2. What is going on with the weed patch where the Bldg. 31 parking lots used to be? I imagine that groundskeepers are trying to let that area go back to nature, but the weed patch is large and quite ugly right now. What is the ultimate plan for that space and how long do groundskeepers think it will take until it looks better?

Response to item 1, from Brad Moss, Office of Research Services: After 9/11, mass evacuation plans were put into place for the entire campus. Each building has primary and alternate exits. This is done in order to direct employees to evacuate the campus through the nearest exit and to reduce on-campus traffic congestion. NIH law enforcement, security and other first-responder personnel will direct traffic and movement. Gates will be opened accordingly. All roads into NIH will be used to dismiss the campus with the exception of South Drive, which will allow two-way traffic to accommodate emergency response vehicles and allow access for employees with children at the day care centers. Each child care center has an emergency plan that covers relocation, evacuation and shelter-in-place for that specific center. Parents of children enrolled in the center can contact the center director for information about the plan.

The roads around the center of campus will be restricted to emergency response vehicles as much as possible. A current campus evacuation planning map is available at For those employees who use carpool or vanpool transportation, it is suggested that you make arrangements ahead of time on how to get to where the car or van is parked to minimize traffic congestion. In accord with planning by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, employees leaving the campus exits and all other traffic will then be directed away from the immediate impact or threat area.

With regard to sheltering-in-place (SIP), many buildings have or are currently identifying safe areas that would accommodate the employees in their building. Floor plans will have the “safe” rooms as well as stairwells and emergency exits identified. These floor plans will be placed in common areas and/or near elevator lobbies. The NIH child care facilities also have a relocation and SIP plan. More information can be obtained at

Response to item 2, from Lynn Mueller, ORS: The lot 31B “weed patch” will, hopefully, develop soon into a wildflower meadow. Actually, all wildflowers can be considered weeds. It’s just our personal definition of what a weed is. The wildflower meadow is having a tough time establishing due to very poor soils and some erosion run-off. The erosion has been stopped and soil amendments were added. The meadow has been seeded with a “Showy Northeast Native Wildflower Mix” both in 2006 and again in the fall of 2007. It can take 2-5 years for the natives to fully establish and self-seed. So we need to wait a while longer to see if that’s true. In the meantime, the meadow is saving about $1,200 a season in mowing costs plus it buffers the drainage swale against soil erosion and it’s a wildlife attractant. We’ve put up several birdhouses along the north edge that were used by house wrens this spring and rabbits have been seen this summer.

Feedback: To whom should broken scales (the ones that measure weight from a sitting position) be reported? The one near the cafeteria in Bldg. 31 does not work. Also, where are these scales located? I know there was one in Executive Plaza North, but I work on campus now.

Response from ORS: Consult In addition to the contact info on this web site, there is information on the individual units about how and where to report a malfunction.

Feedback: There are many bike racks located outside of Bldg. 49 in the parking area. Why then are people being permitted to lock their bikes onto the sidewalk [handrails]? Is this not a safety issue?

Response from ORS: Campus regulations state, “A person must park bicycles, motorbikes and similar vehicles only in designated areas, and may not bring these vehicles inside buildings.” Bottom line—use the racks. In the event of a fire, many persons would need to use the stairs and those that may be disabled would need to grasp the handrail. If a bicycle is secured there, it creates a life/safety risk. Bikes should never be secured to handrails.

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