From natural disasters to terrorist threats, emergencies occur every day. Planning ahead can minimize the risks to your students and your institution.
Determine your Readiness Level
Is your institution prepared for a disaster? Find out using the Red Cross’ free Ready Rating program.
After the Virginia Tech campus shootings in 2007, the Virginia Community College System formed a task force to make sure its 23 colleges would be prepared for future events. Read the findings from the task force[PDF].
Develop a Response Plan
FEMA has guidelines for developing an emergency response plan. Download a PDF or text version here.
Homeroom, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education published a recent blog post with resources to help schools prepare for and recover from crisis.
An Action Guide for Emergency Management at Institutions of Higher Education[PDF] is available for download from the U.S. Department of Education.
Make sure your plan is compliant with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. Compliance guidance is available in The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting[PDF], issued by the U.S. Department of Education.
The Homeland Security Emergency Management Center for Excellence offers best practices and emergency management plan examples for colleges.
The International Association of Emergency Managers Universities & Colleges Caucus (UCC) represents emergency management issues with regard to college and university campuses.
Communicate the Plan
“Managing a crisis without a communications plan is like showing up for the big game without knowing who the opponent is or having a game plan.” (Millar & Smith, 2002, p. 27)
In addition to an emergency response plan, develop a crisis communications plan so people know how and what to communicate to students, staff, and stakeholders. Work with your public relations staff to decide how to handle media.
An effective plan should include:
• The philosophy and policy behind the plan
• The heart and soul of the plan: how to manage specific crises
• Worksheets and checklists
(Millar & Smith, 2002, p. 29)
Ready.gov has tips for designing and implementing a crisis communications plan.
Courses and training are also available through the Institute of Crisis Management.
Situations and scenarios are examined in the Community College Press book Before Crisis Hits: Building a Strategic Crisis Plan by Larry L. Smith and Dan P. Millar.
An example of a well-communicated plan comes from Virginia Tech. The college developed an Office of Emergency Management website with policies and procedures for emergencies related to biohazards, health, facilities, physical threats, and weather.
Consider creating a video training that illustrates your emergency response plan in detail like this one from Yavapai College.
Does your plan contain a social media policy? Read Leveraging Digital Media in Crisis Communications[PDF], a paper by the Emerging Media Research Council, to learn how to incorporate this important aspect.
The Role of the CEO
“The real role of the CEO, beyond making sure those in authority have what they need to make quick and meaningful decisions and being a primary voice in calming key stakeholders, will be to make sure everyone knows of and continues on the right road toward your carefully planned recovery,” says Aileen Pincus of The Pincus Group, Inc.
Tips for the CEO with regard to crisis communication exist on The Pincus Group’s website.
“To CEO or not to CEO? Crisis Communication in Action,” a blog post by Jane Jordan Meier, has information about choosing the best spokesperson to handle the media during a crisis.
Following recent gun violence events, is your emergency management plan up-to-date? Visit the Department of Education’s Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center to find out.
The Association of American Universities issued a Statement on Gun Violence in America[PDF] from the Executive Committee on Behalf of the Association on January 2, 2013.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talked about gun violence on a PBS special report, “After Newtown.” Watch the interview.
On December 19, 2012, President Obama said that he is committed to ending gun violence in America. Read his remarks from the “Words Need to Lead to Action” press conference.
“Guns On College Campuses Divides Americans' Opinion In New Poll,” Huffington Post (January 9, 2013)
“1 in 4 Campuses Not Prepared to Respond to Active Shooters,” Campus Safety Magazine (January 2, 2013)
“College Presidents Plead for Gun Control,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (December 28, 2012)
“Campus Security Plans Fall Through the Cracks,” Chicago Tribune (March 19, 2012)
“Emergency Preparedness: How to Be Ready When It’s Unexpected,” Dixie Sun (April 7, 2012)
California Community Colleges System Office: Disaster Resistant California Community Colleges
State University of New York’s Emergency Response Plan Requirements
Virginia’s Community Colleges: Prepare Prevent Respond, Chapter Two: Campus Safety and Emergency Planning[PDF]
McLennan Community College Emergency Operations Plan[PDF] (Texas)
Labette Community College Emergency Response Plan (Kansas)
Metropolitan Community College Emergency Response Plan (ERP) (Missouri)
Bronx Community College (CUNY) Emergency Response Guide[PDF] (New York)
Lakeshore Technical College All-Hazards Management Plan[PDF] (Wisconsin)
Miami Dade College Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan[PDF] (Florida)