Have a question about some aspect of working at NIH? You can post anonymous queries at www.nih.gov/nihrecord/index.htm (click on the Feedback icon) and we’ll try to provide answers.
Feedback: In 2007, the Record reported that a “comprehensive facility evaluation” of Bldg. 31 was under way and that “options for renovation or replacement” would be made. What was the result of that study? While the new Porter Bldg. is great and everyone is happy for the lucky NIH’ers who have a nice, modern building, are there any plans to improve the workplace conditions of those of us who have to work in Bldg. 31? It’s been 7 years since the last article—time for an update, please!
Response from ORF: The Office of Research Facilities oversaw an analysis of the Bldg. 31 facilities (31A, 31B and 31C). The analysis concluded that the most cost-efficient alternative is a replacement of the buildings. The replacement facility, per the 2013 Comprehensive Bethesda Campus Master Plan, would be planned for the current Bldg. 21 site, adjacent to the Metro station, to make it more user-friendly for staff and visitors using mass transit. Funds for the new facility are not currently budgeted.
Feedback: Who scheduled a 1:15 p.m. full-building fire drill for Bldg. 50 during Take Your Child To Work Day? We had to evacuate Bldg. 50 in the middle of an activity. And one of the “safety people” was quite rude about making people (including children) cross a busy street and stand on the sidewalk next to Bldg. 8. Which was a bigger threat—a fire drill or traffic?
Response from the Office of Research Services: The Division of Emergency Preparedness and Coordination (DEPC) schedules and administers all emergency evacuation drills on the NIH main campus. DEPC staff were aware that it was Take Your Child to Work Day and that Earth Day festivities were scheduled on that same day. In addition, the Bldg. 50 evacuation team, which includes occupants of the building, were also notified and thought it would be a good learning experience for the children, emphasizing the importance of evacuation drills by allowing children to see that evacuations are not only conducted in schools, but also in the workplace.
Since Bldg. 50 includes laboratory space, signs were posted and multiple email reminders were sent to all emergency contacts for all occupants, with the time and date of the evacuation drill, almost a week in advance of the actual drill so ongoing experiments would not be adversely affected. This advance notice also allowed events management staff to warn meeting coordinators, attendees and speakers of the upcoming drill in addition to offering parents the opportunity to “opt out” of having their children participate in the drill. The evacuation was intentionally scheduled for 1:15 because the official schedule of events for Take Your Child to Work Day had nothing scheduled in the building during that time.
As to the perceived rude behavior of the evacuation staff, it is the opinion of DEPC and the Bldg. 50 evacuation team that the need to be loud and forceful in order to ensure that hundreds of employees are safe can sometimes be misconstrued as rude. As emergency preparedness representatives, they are not there to be your friends; they are safety personnel charged with moving people quickly away from a building to a safe location. When people do not follow directions, emergency personnel are trained to be the voice of reason. The location across the street is the approved practice endorsed by the NIH Fire Department.
The Division of the Fire Marshal (DFM) was also on hand to witness the evacuation. DFM, along with building evacuation team members, did not see any issues with the children evacuating the building. All evacuated in an orderly fashion and were accompanied by adults or parents. Overall, comments received from the Bldg. 50 evacuation team were overwhelmingly positive.
Feedback: Increasingly in the morning I have noticed a trend for employees to pull into the Old Georgetown Rd. and South Dr. entrance and stop short of the ID check. An NIH worker is then dropped off, but not until the passenger changes to the driver’s seat, and the employee slowly gets [his or her] things out of the backseat, during which time traffic is backing up onto Old Georgetown Rd. The employee then goes off to enter thru the walking gate entrance while the driver tries to manipulate over to the other lane (in front of entering traffic) to exit back onto Old Georgetown Rd. I am sure these employees do not want to be bothered to take the time to be dropped off at a more appropriate spot—say the “Kiss and Ride” spot which is designed for this very situation. But the result is a traffic jam and safety issues for many other NIH employees who are trying to enter campus during rush hour. Is there any way that NIH Police (or the guards at the entrances) could try to stop this unsafe practice from occurring?
Response from ORS: The NIH Police recognize there is a problem with employees being dropped off at the Old Georgetown Rd. and South Dr. entrance, where no safe drop-off point is present. This practice often causes traffic backups and includes the changing of drivers and crossing of entrance lanes to enter exit lanes. The behavior tends to happen more often when there is no police presence.
The NIH Police are appealing to employees to stop this dangerous practice. They recommend commuters use the “Kiss and Ride” parking lot near the Medical Center Metro Station at Rockville Pike and South Dr., or the drop-off lane on West Cedar Ln. behind Bldg. 31, as they were designed for this very purpose and do not cause an inconvenience for other drivers. If voluntary compliance isn’t attained, the police reserve the right to utilize further enforcement measures to correct the behavior.