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Survey Shows Partnerships are Key for a Disaster Resilient University, Part 1

This is Part 1 of a 2 part series. Watch for Part 2 next Monday, August 29, 2011.

Sana Khosa

Recent disasters in the U.S. have revealed that emergency plans are insignificant if communities do not invest in capacity-building activities such as developing sustainable community partnerships that help to prepare for disasters, mitigate threats and strengthen the understanding and execution of disaster plans. Campuses around the U.S. are engaged in developing plans; however, the emphasis needs to be on developing a profound sense of understanding and continuously improving these plans with the help of community and government partnerships. Some recent initiatives by the federal government through the U.S. Department of Education have laid emphasis on the importance of developing sustainable, workable plans for managing both man-made and natural disasters.

The Emergency Management for Higher Education (EMHE) grant by the U.S. Department of Education was awarded to the University of Central Florida (UCF) in 2009. As part of the EMHE project, an extensive literature review was conducted to identify best practices for building a Disaster Resilient University (DRU) and creating a culture of preparedness on campuses. Based on the literature review, a survey was conducted by the Center for Public and Nonprofit Management at the University of Central Florida under the auspices of Naim Kapucu, associate professor at the Department of Public Administration. Members of the Disaster Resilient University (DRU) listserv, EMHE 2008 grant recipients, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Resistant University grant recipients were requested to complete an online survey about elements that are important to create a DRU.

Members on the DRU listserv were chosen as the primary respondents since they form a network of university/college emergency management professionals in the U.S. The current DRU listserv has over 450 members and may not be exhaustive in terms of representing all institutions of higher education in the country. However, according to Steve Charvat, Emergency Management Director at the University of Washington in Seattle, who has many years of experience in the emergency management field, it is the only available source covering a network of institutions sharing ideas and resources on creating better, more prepared and resilient institutions.

Survey questions focused primarily on identifying the progress of universities and colleges in developing comprehensive plans along with developing sustainable relationships with community partners for managing emergencies and creating a strong culture of preparedness and resiliency. Survey results indicate that 85 percent of the respondents have an all-hazards comprehensive emergency management plan at their campus, 79.6 percent claim that their plan is compliant with NIMS, while around 56 percent report that they review these plans annually. Developing a comprehensive plan and ensuring its compliance with NIMS is the easier part, reviewing and constantly updating and improving the plan is a challenging task. Overall, 42.7 percent of the respondents indicate that their institution is well prepared to manage emergencies.

Survey results also show that police and fire departments are the most popular entities universities and colleges partner with when preparing for emergencies. Local community-based organizations, private business agencies and religious organizations are the least popular community partners. Moreover, trainings and drills were reported as the most popular activity that universities carry out with police and fire departments (85.9 percent of respondents), offices of local emergency management (69.4 percent), and medical and health service providers (67.2 percent). In terms of institutional capacity to carryout comprehensive training programs, around 69 percent of the respondents indicated that their institution has adequate resources to implement and maintain comprehensive training programs, while 73.2 percent also indicate that their key staff and faculty are trained in ICS and NIMS, which is quite remarkable.

This is Part 1 of a 2 part series. Watch for Part 2 next Monday, August 29, 2011.

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

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One Response to Survey Shows Partnerships are Key for a Disaster Resilient University, Part 1

  1. stevecharvat Reply

    August 23, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    This study validates how college campuses (as “mini-cities”) must perform the exact same emergency/disaster management duties and responsibilities as our neighboring communities, regions and states. We also have the unique challenges of “distributed decision-making” that is inherent of all institutions of higher education. And, while most of us must abide by federal and state emergency management and business continuity laws, regulations and requirements (i.e, Clery Act), we unfortunately must do so without the availability of federal grants that are often only available to our state/municipal counterparts. Emergency management in higher education is both exciting and challenging (as well as a growth field). By implementing standard EM practices, procedures and standards on our respective campuses, we hope to increase the overall disaster resilience of our institutions one-step-at-a-time!

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