Webinar Brief: Union Emergency Preparedness

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” That was one of the first bits of wisdom offered by Stockton University’s Dr. Joseph Lizza during the recent hour-long ACUI webinar “The Basics of Emergency Management and Preparedness Strategies for Student Unions.”

Webinar-Brief-Union-Emergency-HomeUsing a risk-assessment matrix to rate incidents based on how likely they are to occur and their effect on the community, Lizza, associate director for event services and Campus Center operations, showed how to weigh benefits and risks for determining how a potential risk should be handled.

Lizza referenced the "All-Hazards Approach" to emergency management, where the initial step is to have developed an institutional Emergency Operations Plan that can be adapted to cover all hazards, big or small. There are many kinds of emergencies that occur on campus and they lay on a continuum between minor incidents and an all-out crisis. An incident interrupts normal operations, but a crisis goes a step farther by being likely to result in negative consequences.

Ultimately, he noted, every campus has a responsibility to “act reasonably to provide a campus environment that is reasonably safe.”

Four Phases of Emergency Management

  • Mitigation: The effort to correct, prevent, or reduce the impact of an identified problem. Examples are as simple as removing the hazard, keeping people away from the problem, or educating people about it.
  • Preparedness: Have an Emergency Operations Plan, a set of Emergency Action Guidelines, an Incident Management Plan, and a Continuity of Operations Plan. Then be sure the right people—stakeholders and subject matter experts—are brought into discuss and help create the plans.
  • Response: Personnel can use checklists from preparedness plans to make sure they have accomplished what they need to do during an incident. Also be prepared to set up an Emergency Operations Center where the focus can be on impact, coordination, and logistics. Priorities during this phase include notifying people of an emergency, preserving life, campus welfare, and security of property.
  • Recovery: Once a response assessment is completed a Continuity of Operations Plan can be used to get back to normal operations as efficiently as possible. There are many considerations for this phase of emergency management, as well as tips for safer events, and Lizza spelled out many of these examples during the webinar.

Lizza offered the following tips for student union personnel:

  • The importance of continual staff training cannot be overstated.
  • Student union personnel must make sure they have a seat at the table when it comes to emergency planning. Student union staff come with knowledge and resources that are crucial to a well-rounded all-hazards plan.
  • Make good use of education programs and other resources related to emergency management.
  • Take a multi-disciplinary approach to planning for and managing emergencies. Consider staffing needs to cover inside and the outside the event, including how to best use student staff.
  • After an incident, have a debrief session to discuss what could have been done differently.
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