UN to hold evacuation drill

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UN to hold evacuation drill Tuesday, 25 September 2001 21:00 (ET)

UN to hold evacuation drill By RODOLFO A. WINDHAUSEN

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- In a move aimed at strengthening its security arrangements, the United Nations will conduct an evacuation drill Friday to test its preparedness in the event of an emergency, officials said Tuesday.

Spokesman Fred Eckhard said the drill scheduled for Friday afternoon would last about an hour and a half and would involve staffers, "diplomats and everybody else who is in the building."

The U.N. Department of Management issued a security update indicating that Secretary-General Kofi Annan has established a senior Crisis Management Group and an emergency command center to take "immediate operational and administrative measures should emergencies occur."

The security staff has also been reinforced with 15 officers temporarily transferred from the U.N. headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the update indicated.

Other measures now in effect include bomb sweeps for all vehicles entering the U.N. secretariat building, which is located on the east side of Manhattan, and the reduction in the number of people entering the complex.

The public tours of the U.N. headquarters, which included visits to the General Assembly Hall and the Security Council chambers and attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, have been canceled since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Eckhard said journalists are being asked to "make other arrangements" for covering the United Nations during Friday's evacuation drill.

Officials later indicated to United Press International that the U.N-related offices located in the area surrounding the 39-story secretariat building will not be included in the drill Friday, but would have their own security procedures in place.

"The security environment facing the United Nations after Sept. 11 presents unprecedented challenges," the update points out.

An evacuation manual, which is under preparation, will be distributed shortly to all staff, outlining procedures in different emergency situations.

Backup systems for the public address network, which malfunctioned on Sept. 11 and 12, have now been established to ensure appropriate emergency handling, officials said.

Immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the U.N. building and related offices nearby were evacuated and only essential personnel remained inside. New York police units closed off the streets around it and established checkpoints to verify the identity of residents of the area.

Unconfirmed press reports indicated over the weekend that one of the suspects arrested by the U.S. federal authorities in the days after the attacks had a blueprint of the U.N. building.

Neither the FBI nor the New York Police Department has made any comments on the issue.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), September 25, 2001

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