Everyone involved in the plan needs to know their roles and responsibilities before, during and after an emergency. Key training components include the following:
At least once a year, hold a meeting to educate all parties on the plan. Go through the plan to familiarize these stakeholders with it. These meetings should include campus administration, department heads, the PIO, student affairs, community partners (first responders, emergency managers, public and mental health officials), other community entities and stakeholders, as well as the media.
Show involved parties not only where evacuation sites are located but also where specific areas, such as media areas and triage areas, will be located.
It may also be helpful to provide all parties with quick reference guides that remind them of key courses of action.
It is important that students, faculty, and staff are familiar with and have easy access to information such as evacuation routes and shelter-in-place procedures and locations. Ensure information concerning evacuation routes and shelter-in-place procedures and locations is effectively communicated to students and staff, such as by distributing materials by e-mail in an accessible format.
Holding open house meetings for community partners, such as law enforcement officers, fire department officials, EMS personnel, emergency managers, public and mental health practitioners as well as the campus community to talk about the plan will make students, faculty, and staff more comfortable working with these partners. Consider involving students who volunteer with community partners and in the community in these events.
Each member of the college community may be assigned specific roles in the plan that will require special skills, such as first aid, threat assessment, using the Incident Command System (ICS), and providing personal assistance services for students and staff with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.
The more a plan is practiced and stakeholders are trained on the plan, the more effectively they will be able to act before, during, and after an emergency to lessen the impact on life and property. Exercises provide opportunities to practice with community partners including first responders and local emergency management as well as to identify gaps and weaknesses in the plan. The exercises below require increasing amounts of planning, time, and resources. Ideally, IHEs will create an exercise program, building from a tabletop exercise up to a more advanced exercise, like a functional exercise.
Before making a decision about how many and which types of exercises to implement, an IHE should consider the costs and benefits of each, as well as any state or local requirements. For example, while a tabletop exercise may be less costly and less time-consuming to run, a full-scale exercise provides a more realistic context for the simulated response to an emergency situation, thus providing more constructive feedback to improve the plans. Students should be included to the maximum extent possible, and IHEs should also consider whether to include families. The IHE should also take into account the cultural diversity of its population when designing exercises and training.
It is up to the planning team to decide how often exercises should be conducted. Note, however, that IHEs that are subject to the Clery Act are required to test their “emergency response and evacuation procedures” on at least an annual basis (see the section on requirements of The Clery Act).
To effectively execute an exercise
This step closes the loop in the planning process. It focuses on adding the information gained from exercising the plan to the research collected in Step 2, starting the planning cycle over again. Remember, planning is a continuous process even after the plan is published. Plans should evolve as the IHE and planning team learn lessons, obtain new information and insights, and update their priorities.
Reviews should be a recurring activity. Planning teams should establish a process for reviewing and revising the plan. Many IHEs review their plans on an annual basis. In no case should any part of a plan go for more than 2 years without being reviewed and revised.
Some IHEs have found it useful to review and revise portions instead of reviewing the entire plan at once. IHEs may consider reviewing a portion each month or at natural breaks in the academic calendar. Certain events will also provide new information that will be used to inform the plan. IHEs should consider reviewing and updating their plans or sections of their plans after
The planning team should ensure that all first responders, local emergency management, and all community partners have the most current version of the higher ed EOP.