Thursday, June 17, 2004

Capitol Building Evacuation Was a Mess

HILL NEWS - While Hill sources uniformly praised the Capitol Police for their successful efforts, they said different officers conveyed different levels of threat to exiting staff, that security warning systems failed to operate in all buildings and that office evacuation plans were sometimes useless once a threat was believed to be real...

The biggest complaint was that Capitol Police conveyed a different threat level to different offices. “Our chief of staff was told, ‘Don’t worry, it’s nothing,’” said one Senate office manager, while nearby, officers “were screaming for people to take their shoes off, run for their lives.”

During the evacuation, some senators, such as Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), strolled out of the building. Others, such as George Allen (R-Va.), said they never received a Blackberry message, since the police did not have time to send them. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), operating on bad information, continued to linger by the Hart Building. In contrast, Majority Leader Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), was rushed out of the building by security and thrown into his SUV...

Aides said that staff members and at least one senator were penned in by construction on one side of the Hart Building. Had the evacuation not been called off as quickly as it was, panic might have ensued.

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