This isn’t the “stop, drop and roll” of yesteryear.
Campus safety is top of mind for students and faculty alike, which means if your college or university wants to be at the forefront of emergency response – it needs to have a plan down pat. This is no longer a game of choice. Congress amended the Jeanne Clery Act in 2008 to require higher education institutions to adopt and disclose summaries of emergency response and evacuation plans. Annual drills and exercises that involve the coordination of efforts across a range of departments and services are required.
Perhaps no one knows this better than Captain Lawrence Wright, the Assistant Director of Public Safety at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. UMES leads the way in campus emergency response because of its thorough approach to pre-planning, which is a critical stage of the Crisis Continuum.
“I would recommend establishing a timeline and start to planning at least 9 to 12 months in advance. Review your emergency plans and test your plans by conducting drills and tabletop exercises, which will allow you to determine what additional resources will be needed, prior to conducting a full scale exercise,” Wright says in an interview with Omnilert.
Crawl, walk, run
In Spring 2015, UMES gathered local fire, police and EMS and campus personnel to participate in a full-scale hazardous material response drill. The goal was to “crawl, walk then run” in order to learn wherein lies each department’s weaknesses and strengths, says Warner Sumpter, Chief of Police and Public Safety Director at UMES.
Crawling is the first stage when the concept of the emergency response effort is introduced. The team then “walks” through the “table-top exercise” as a verbal run-through.
“The table top helps the leaders to, on a tactical level, make a plan. When you implement the tactical solutions and the on-the-ground people getting their hands dirty, that’s when you find out where your weaknesses and your strengths are” says John Barnette, Senior Field Instructor at the Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute, who participated in the full-scale drill.
Once the emergence response team is fully studied up on the plan, they must take a graduation examination of sorts in the form of the full-scale drill. Full-scale is all hands on deck spanning all departments, plans and technologies and thereby testing their communication and teamwork.
Responding in real-time
Captain Wright served as a member on the UMES Emergency Crisis Management team during the planning, preparation and coordination of the drill. He was there when the allied first responders held monthly meetings and gave walk-throughs of campus facilities to identify all UMES hazardous materials, and more.
In the event of an emergency, the university’s Office of Public Safety is primarily responsible for sending out notifications, largely from having firsthand knowledge of an incident or circumstances for sending out an immediate notification without delay and to meet compliance with the Clery Act requirements.
During the exercise, Wright set the notification system in motion after receiving the 911 call into the UMES Police communication center. The e2campus emergency notification system instantaneously informs everyone on campus through so many channels that it would be almost impossible to miss. E2campus sends out the alert via text message, email, desktop pop-up alerts, alert beacons, display monitors and the outdoor emergency siren and public address systems.
The e2campus has proved valuable in real-life scenarios.
“It was used to notify the campus community members about the stabbing homicide death of UMES student in 2013,” Wright says.
Within the parameters of the exercise, however, Wright’s role became dynamic. He discovered that he had to step into the role of the on-scene Incident Commander who was expected to respond in real-time to Fire, EMS and Hazmat personnel and administrators. He also had the honor of sending out the “All Clear” message to resume normal activity.
“Nothing beats going out there and actually physically touching and doing stuff and seeing how the plan works,” says Tim Jerscheid, Senior Field Instructor, Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute.
“What came out in every segment was communications. Communications is so important, and we just reinforced what we already know. Years ago, fire, police, EMS, all used the same radio system, so that’s not part of the problem. It’s taking those devices, and us as humans, putting the verbiage in there to share our knowledge … so that everybody knows what’s happening,” Sumpter says.