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Why it’s critical to understand the anatomy of a campus crisis

By Spencer Graham, Operations Manager, West Virginia University
November 24th, 2015

Operations expert discusses 7 tips on how to manage campus emergencies and alerts.

campus-crisis-manageNo one has the luxury of choosing the date and time of the next campus crisis, which is why assembling a core team to oversee campus emergency alerting must be mission critical. Understanding the dynamics of potential threats and preparing for any campus crisis makes for good policy. Therefore, exploring the anatomy of a campus crisis: who should be involved, what procedures should be followed, how best to alert the campus and what the expected response should be to multiple campus constituencies during an emergency event is the best way to be prepared.

Know What “Campus” Means

A “campus” is often thought of as an area that consists of many individual students occupying seats in numerous learning classrooms. However, a high altitude view reveals more than 20,000 colleges, universities and research institutions in the world, some of which have multiple campuses under their sphere of influence.

A typical campus might:

  • Span an entire state with multiple campuses
  • Have 518 buildings
  • Cover 15,880 acres of land
  • Have an enrollment of 32,000 students
  • Employ over 10,000 members of the faculty and staff
  • Host over a thousand campus visitors on a normal day
  • Be comprised of 15 individual colleges and schools
  • Have 400 active student organizations
  • Have several sporting facilities that seat tens of thousands of people per event.

Those responsible for risk management know that the prime mission of any campus is to maintain a safe indoor and outdoor environment for every constituency on that campus 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, problematic issues arise from time to time on every campus. These events require instant reaction and action.

A ticking clock waits for no one.

Not Just First Responders

Emergent events can take any form, and in the course of a year it is not uncommon to learn of a campus forced to deal with severe weather situations (snow, flooding, hurricane, tornado), an earthquake, power outages, HAZMAT situations, fire, burglary, assaults, and unfortunately much worse. In these types of situations, campus first responders obviously move quickly to manage the circumstances, but there are others on campus that must also have a prepared response plan at the ready.

Those “others” should be a formal team that supports the first responders, as well as the many constituencies attached to the campus as a whole. This team needs to provide quick and precise information to the campus and all of its constituents, including the surrounding communities. It is imperative that they communicate with students, faculty, staff, visitors, news organizations, student families and the adjacent communities.

How, what and when you communicate can have significant ramifications as any emergent event unfolds.

(Next page: Practice, messaging, communication)


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