Higher ed Emergency Management Planning Higher Ed Emergency Management Planning

Related Resources
EOP Interactive

The REMS TA Center offers a suite of emergency management planning tools to education agencies and their community partners to support them in a variety of planning activities. These EOP Interactive Tools were intended to be used by K-12 and higher ed practitioners, with any level of experience in emergency management, to develop emergency operations plans (EOPs), revise EOPs, enhance their capacity, and engage in learning opportunities.

Access EOP Interactive Tools

Step 1: Form a Collaborative Planning Team

Lessons learned indicate that operational planning is best performed by a team. Case studies reinforce this concept by pointing out that the common thread found in successful operations is that participating organizations have understood and accepted their roles. Close collaboration between IHEs and their community partners ensures the coordination of efforts and the integration of emergency management plans.

Identify Core Planning Team:

The core planning team should include representatives from across the IHE. The table below illustrates some of the contributions that various IHE departments may make to the planning team. The team should also include student and family representatives, to the extent applicable. Additionally, the team should include individuals and organizations that serve and represent the interests of students, staff, and families with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, as well as those from diverse racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds, including international student populations, so that specific concerns will be included from the early stages of planning. In addition, the core planning team should include first responders (e.g., law enforcement officers, EMS personnel fire department officials), local emergency managers and public and mental health practitioners, all of whom have roles and responsibilities in IHE emergency management before, during, and after an incident. Campus and community partners’ expertise will inform the development, implementation, and refinement of the higher ed EOP.

Contributions to the Planning Team

Department1 Illustrative Contributions to the Planning Team
Academic Affairs
  • Develop procedures to communicate with and account for teaching faculty in an emergency situation
  • Develop plans to identify alternate facilities where institutional activities can be conducted in the event of the destruction, disablement, or denial or lack of access to existing facilities
  • Identify and prioritize critical support services and systems
  • Identify and help ensure recovery of critical assets and information
  • Participate in the threat assessment team (TAT)
Business Office
  • Develop the processes and procedures for tracking employees’ time and issuing paychecks during disaster operations
  • Develop procedures for procuring emergency resources for responding to and recovering from emergencies
  • Develop the process for documenting the financial cost of emergency response and recovery operations
  • Develop a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)
Central Administration or Designee
  • Provide resources and leadership support to drive the initiative
  • Develop procedures for declaring an emergency
  • Identify alternate administrative facilities
  • Develop and coordinate procedures for recruiting volunteers and additional staff
  • Develop procedures to coordinate and approve volunteers and manage donations during an emergency
  • Develop a Continuity of Operations (COOP) Annex
Counseling and Mental Health Services
  • Identify and train appropriate staff to provide developmentally and culturally appropriate mental health services
  • Train mental health staff on specific interventions
  • Identify alteres
  • Provide basic training on available resources and common reactions to trauma for all staff (including administrators)
  • Train faculty and other staff on early warning signs of individuals who pose a potential danger
  • Assemble and train recovery teams
  • Identify both internal and external partners (consider local mental health agencies that may be able to assist, and develop a structure for support) and develop partnership agreements
  • Develop template letters (that can be tailored) for alerting students, families, staff, and the community to emergencies
  • Participate in the TAT
  • Develop and coordinate procedures for mobilizing resources needed for significant, longer-term emergencies
  • Identify sources for mutual aid agreements and assistance
Environmental Health and Safety
  • Participate in vulnerability and hazard assessments
  • Review and update office standard operating procedures to align with the higher ed EOP
  • Develop procedures for pre-positioning resources and equipment
  • Review and update processes and procedures for state and federal disaster declaration requests)
  • Develop, review, and update state and federally required environmental emergency response plans, including management procedures for the plans
  • Coordinate with public safety operations (see next entry) to develop the process and procedures for increasing public information
  • Provide warning system information
Facilities and Operations
  • Participate in vulnerability and hazard assessments
  • Provide floor plans with room layout, electrical sources, and entrance and exit points for all campus buildings
  • Develop procedures for pre-positioning resources and equipment
  • Identify sources for mutual aid agreements and assistance
Food Services
  • Identify possible threats and mitigation strategies relating to food safety
  • Develop procedures for providing food to students, staff, faculty, and community partners during a major emergency
  • Develop mutual aid agreements for obtaining, preparing, and distributing food
Health Services
  • Develop procedures to determine if there are adequate supplies and equipment to triage for an emergency and to support community health partners
  • Develop procedures for mobilizing personnel on campus and at external sites
  • Develop procedures for developing mutual aid agreements
  • Develop pandemic flu and infectious disease plans
  • Develop a system for disease surveillance and tracking
  • Coordinate with local and state public health partners
Human Resources
  • Develop plans to maintain the continuity of the payroll together with the business office (see above) during an emergency
  • Develop plans to maintain employee benefit services during an emergency
  • Develop plans to hire or replace staff with temporary employees, if needed
  • Develop plans to serve as the liaison or organizer, or both, of volunteer assistance in the event of an emergency
  • Prepare to execute components of the COOP relating to staffing, including assessing faculty and staff availability, appropriation of personnel, and assisting employees with work-recovery needs (e.g., psychological help, time off for personal needs)
  • Develop processes to account for personnel during or after an event
Information Technology
  • Develop procedures and systems for checking critical information and alert systems to disseminate emergency information in an accessible format via a website, cell phone, e-mail, and other mechanisms. Coordinate beforehand with all departments to provide unified and factual messages to students, staff, faculty, families, and the media using multiple modalities, and in consideration of different language needs or accommodations, including effective communication with individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, such as those who are blind or deaf.
  • Identify information technology resources needed to facilitate the emergency operations of all campus departments
  • Identify the need for and sources of emergency communication devices (e.g., ham radios, cell phones)
  • Develop plans to continue academic programs that significantly use technology for teaching purposes
Legal Counsel
  • Provide legal counsel on campus liability to key decision makers
  • Coordinate investigations completed by community partners
  • Review messages drafted by Public Information Officer (PIO)
  • Ensure that all campus and community actions are documented with a rationale for the action
  • Participate in the threat assessment team
  • Ensure compliance with applicable laws
Public Information Office
  • Coordinate beforehand with all departments to provide unified and factual messages to students, staff, faculty, families, and the media using multiple modalities
  • Develop pre-agreements with the media concerning debriefings and media holding areas during an emergency
  • Designate a campus spokesperson
Public Safety Operations
  • Develop procedures for reviewing and updating higher ed EOP
  • Develop procedures for facilities and equipment, including testing systems
  • Develop procedures for mobilizing department of public safety personnel, and pre-positioning resources and equipment
  • Develop a process for managing incidents at the field level using the ICS
  • Develop a process for communicating with and directing the central dispatch center, including the activation of the emergency contact list
  • Develop procedures to warn threatened elements of the population, including those individuals with different language needs or accommodations needs, including effective communication with individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs (e.g., those who are deaf or blind)
  • Ensure that hazardous material procedures are consistent with the state and local environmental safety hazardous materials plans
  • Participate in the TAT
  • Become proficient in the understanding and use of the NIMS and ICS structures referenced in this document
Residential Life
  • Develop procedures to coordinate the need for on-campus housing, temporary shelters, and temporary off-campus housing locations, including consideration of physical accessibility for individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs
  • Develop procedures for mobilizing residential life personnel and pre-positioning resources
  • Develop an on-call staffing system to ensure staff are available at all times
  • Develop procedures for identifying resident students in need of emergency evacuation assistance
  • Develop procedures for the evacuation and temporary shelter accommodations for resident students
  • Develop procedures for checking residential facilities and equipment
  • Participate in the TAT
Student Affairs
  • Develop reunification procedures in collaboration with community reunification initiatives
  • Develop procedures for checking student affairs facilities and equipment, including those relating to on-campus recreation, student organizations, on-campus employment, community service, and volunteerism
  • Develop procedures for addressing the needs of students living in Greek housing or off-campus facilities
  • Develop procedures for pre-positioning resources to maintain functioning of such campus elements as career services and student government
  • Develop mutual aid agreements and pre-negotiate with service providers for delivering goods and services in the event of an emergency
  • Ensure that all obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act are considered throughout the planning and implementation of the higher ed EOP
  • Ensure that the plan is accessible to students whose primary language is not English
  • Develop parent or family notification procedures
  • Participate in the TAT
  • Create a Campus Community Emergency Response Team (Campus CERT)
  • Develop procedures for mobilizing campus wide transportation for an emergency and for maintaining control of traffic from private vehicles
  • Develop evacuation procedures from various campus locales
  • Develop procedures for IHE-sponsored transportation (e.g., buses)
International Student Services Office
  • Develop procedures for staff to support COOP during crises, including ongoing management of the access to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
  • Develop procedures for international students to communicate safety concerns, location, and short-term plans during an emergency
  • Coordinate beforehand with all staff and international students to distribute communication procedures during an emergency

The planning team should be small enough to permit close collaboration, yet large enough to be representative of the campus community and its families, as well as its broader community. It should also be large enough to not place an undue burden on any single person.

Form a Common Framework

All team members need to take time to learn each other’s vocabulary, command structure, and culture to facilitate effective planning.

Define and Assign Roles and Responsibilities

Each person involved in the development and refinement of the plan should know his or her role and responsibilities in the planning process.

Determine a Regular Schedule of Meetings

IHE emergency management planning is an ongoing effort that is reinforced through regularly scheduled planning meetings. Establishing a flexible but regular schedule of meeting times will facilitate greater collaboration, coordination, and communication among team members and will help solidify crucial relationships.

Step 1 Outcome

After completing Step 1, the IHE has formed a planning team with representatives from all necessary stakeholders. The planning team has taken initial steps to form a common framework, define and assign roles and responsibilities in the planning process, and set a schedule of planning meetings.

1 Across varying types of IHEs, these departments are key to university functioning.

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