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KC Wednesday: Am I Ready?

by on February 13, 2013

Our latest KC Wednesday post comes to us from the Campus Safety KC and is written by James C. Nawoichyk, Director Campus Safety and Security at St. Thomas Aquinas College.

Captain’ Log 13 February 2013…. Ok maybe that won’t work

Be ready for anything! Did I tell you about the three months at St. Thomas Aquinas College that the Campus Safety Director was the Interim Student Activities Director? By the way, that really happened and that, in itself, could be an entire blog. I know that nothing about Student Activities had ever been covered in my emergency response framework, but serving in the interim role will definitely be a highlight of my higher education career!

At STAC, we survived “Winter Storm Nemo,” but many of our peers on the East Coast are still digging out. On top of that, it is supposed to snow again here in NY, while family, friends and colleagues are still trying to recover from Super Storm Sandy. Weather has impacted our institutions across the map in many ways. On top of that there have been many senseless violent acts happening in our schools and public venues across the nation.

How do I plan for all that and still get my daily job done? I am the _______ (fill in the blank) in student affairs; is it really my job to worry about all that? The simple answer is yes. Safety is an institution wide endeavor, not just the men and women who hold the title Security, Safety or Police. In my last blog, I spoke about the “See Something… Say Something Program,” but that is only the beginning. I want to point out that our emergency response at STAC is outlined in the “St. Thomas Aquinas College Emergency Response Framework” and coming from the national initiative from FEMA. The National Response Framework presents the guiding principles that enable all response partners to prepare for and provide a unified national response to disasters and emergencies – from the smallest incident to the largest catastrophe. The Framework establishes a comprehensive, national, all-hazards approach to domestic incident response. (Federal Emergency Management Agency. National Response Framework. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. www.fema.gov/national-response-framework) The all hazard approach includes you! Who would know best your daily operations, what could go wrong, and what is mission critical to continue business continuity in your area?

Why “Emergency Framework?” When you use the term “Plan” you imply that it is a step by step process to handle that emergency. When was the last time you had a plan that went perfectly under optimal circumstances? I am often asked what is the best tool in an emergency, and my simple reply is “common sense.” If your response is convoluted and hard to follow in calm times, what will happen when the world is falling down around you? During a recent fire drill, you know the cattle routine – bell/siren rings and we walk out grumbling about how much work we have to do–I stood in the hallway and told the crowd you can’t come this way because the hall collapsed. The look of confusion on their faces was an eye opener for me. As a result of this, and the need to update our emergency exit maps, I am creating maps that show ALL the exits and we are getting away from the “In Case of Emergency, Exit the Door and Turn Right to Exit C” mentality. A framework, not a set in stone plan.

When was the last time you sat down and played the “What If Game?” What is that? At home, in the movies, sitting at your desk, think of an emergency that could occur. Then ask yourself “What if the emergency alert notification system reported an active shooter on campus, what would I do.” “What if the fire alarm sounded and the door was blocked?” “What if a student reported to me he or she wanted to hurt him or herself?” The list could go on and on, but think of the emergencies that are likely to happen in your area. Could we be attacked by zombies? Yes, the Center for Disease Control even has a “Zombie Preparedness Page” (http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm) but is it as likely as a fire at your institution? In your “what if’s,” don’t forget to plan for your family if you cannot make it home in a crisis.

I know I have given you a lot to consider and will leave you with these two thoughts:

It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark. — Howard Ruff

Remember; when disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed. — Steven Cyros

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