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FEMA reverts to closed gates

Stephanie Long
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(8/7) The gates at the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency in Emmitsburg will once again be guarded come the end of the month following a year and a half of open gates.

“Over the course of the last year and a half we’ve become more customer friendly,” said Tom Olshanski, spokesperson for the U. S. Fire Academy.

Visitors to FEMA have been able to freely enter the site, prompted only by a large sign at the entrance to check in at the security office before proceeding to their destination. This “Open Gate Policy” has posed several problems, including parking issues and visitors entering the wrong buildings, which at times interrupted meetings and such.

“We’ve been operating on the honor system, that was not really quite working,” Olshanski said. “We try to accommodate people… but with the guards it worked so well.”

Thus the decision was made to once again have guards at the gate. With thousands of visitors, tourists and students entering the site each year, Olshanski believes the change will help keep order and help things run smoother. The change is not being made because of any heightened security threats.

Olshanski said mostly likely three guards would work the gate at a time, as it once was. The public is still invited to visit the site and its many monuments and cafeteria, Olshanski said, and will only be required to state their name and purpose to the guards who will check them in and direct them to the proper place.

FEMA officials met with Emmitsburg Mayor James Hoover recently to discuss the change, in an effort to keep local officials apprised of the change, Olshanski said, which is typical.

“We [FEMA] operate under part of the Emmitsburg community. Some of our staff live here and we consider you [Emmitsburg] good neighbors, we depend on the town,” Olshanski said. “Anytime there’s change we like to let the leadership know.”

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