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Survey Shows Partnerships are Key for a Disaster Resilient University, Part 2

This is part 2 of a 2 part series. To read part 1, click on the link in the ‘Related Articles’ box below. To comment on this article, click on the ‘Post A Comment’ link below.

Sana Khosa

A comparison with other universities and their progress provided UCF a roadmap of where its emergency management plans and systems were and what UCF needed to achieve and improve during the course of the federally funded project. The detailed survey results are insightful and can be accessed and viewed in their entirety on the website for the Center for Public and Nonprofit Management under the resources section.

The EMHE grant assisted UCF in establishing a sustainable EM system. An overarching goal of the project was to identify and develop sustainable partnerships with community members and first responders. Initially the targeted goal was set to train 30 key officials and first responders in emergency procedures. But in fact, the project team surpassed this goal and ended up training 41 key officials and 21 senior executives.

The survey results and literature also emphasized training and exercises as the primary means to establish partnerships. As part of the EMHE project, a table top exercise was conducted through which 61 individuals were trained and a functional exercise was also conducted through which 62 primary and potential EOC staff were trained. These two exercises also helped to identify improvement areas for UCF’s existing emergency management systems, protocols and plans. Through this project UCF also established MOAs and MOUs with 11 local emergency management organizations which will help to sustain the goal of mitigating threats by creating a supportive culture for preparedness and resiliency in the Central Florida community.

As part of the project, an advisory council comprising of essential local government and community partners was formed which convened quarterly throughout the course of two years to share, improve and discuss project goals and outcomes. Through these meetings and research activities, ideas and strategies were generated to improve the previously existing UCF Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. The 2011 UCF Comprehensive Emergency Plan is a remarkable improvement from the previous 2007 UCF plan, as more hazards have been identified and addressed in the new plan. The improved plan includes a special needs plan, a pandemic plan, and a civil disturbance plan. A UCF Incident Command System (ICS), mirroring the national ICS has also been developed by identifying specific roles for faculty, staff and students.

While it is not possible to mitigate and prepare for all possible threats on campuses across the country, it is possible to develop sustainable relationships with community partners and local government agencies which can help in addressing vulnerabilities and threats that arise in current challenging times—times when natural catastrophes like the recent tornados have the capacity to wipe out educational institutions, and incidents like the massacre of Virginia Tech continue to haunt us.

ASPA member Sana Khosa is a doctoral student in Public Affairs at the University of Central Florida. Email: [email protected]

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