University preps for emergencies with water, food stockpiles, Red Cross training

By Janel Shoun on 7/18/2011



After witnessing the devastation due to natural disasters around the world over the last few years, Lipscomb University administrators resolved more than a year ago to significantly boost emergency preparedness on campus.
The storehouse for the food reserves, to last up to five days.
The 550-gallon water tanks to store water for up to 1,500 people.
Freeze-dried food to sustain those on campus during a crisis.
Backpacks for emergency supplies.
Canned peaches are just part of the food stores on campus.
Special blankets that retain up to 95 percent of body heat, but are easy to store.
Some food and supplies are designated for the first two days.
University leaders challenged themselves to prepare for 1,400-1,500 people living on campus for five days during a crisis, said Kathy Hargis, director of risk management. To arrange provisions for that many people, the university:
  • Has installed three 550 gallon water tanks to service a disaster shelter in Allen Arena,
  • Stockpiled enough emergency food to sustain the campus for five days,
  • Purchased basic medical supplies needed to launch a triage clinic on campus, and
  • Sent various campus personnel to Red Cross training to be able to run a mass care, large-scale disaster shelter on campus.
“With so many tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and other natural and man-made disasters occurring locally as well as globally, we want to be proactive in our preparation plans for any type of emergency that could hit our campus,” said Hargis. “An official with Nashville’s Emergency Management Agency recently toured the campus and he was extremely impressed with what we have implemented. He was unaware of any other school in Tennessee that had prepared to the extent Lipscomb has. “
Officials chose to prepare for 1,400-1,500 people because that is the approximate number of students housed in the university residence halls. “Although unlikely that all resident students would remain on campus during a large-scale disaster, we have still prepared to accommodate this number with food, water and basic medical supplies,” Hargis said.
In addition to water, freeze-dried entrees such as energy bars, spaghetti and oatmeal have been stockpiled for potential rapid food deployment. Specific items are marked to be used on the first and second day of a crisis. Most of the freeze-dried food has a 25-year shelf life, Hargis said. 
Emergency supplies also include special blankets that retain 95 percent of body heat but fold up into thin, 3-inch squares of material. Flashlights and first-aid kits are available, along with special pre-assembled backpacks holding various emergency supplies and resources.
The emergency storehouse also includes many medical supplies, such as IV tubing and saline bags for rehydration, wound irrigation kits, respirators and syringes. These items would be used in the triage medical center, designated to be set up in the Baptist Sports Medicine facility in Allen Arena and staffed by officials in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
“We have a very capable and talented group of people in-house who can serve in this capacity,” Hargis stated.
Lipscomb recently brought together 20 faculty and staff to receive specialized training on how to set up and manage a full-service, mass care disaster shelter on campus in the event of an on-site emergency.
Lipscomb is the first university in the state to prepare its own shelter team, a holistic approach enacted by the Nashville Area Red Cross two years ago, said David Kitchen, chief emergency services officer.
While Lipscomb has served as a Red Cross shelter site to house members of the community several times in the past, now university staff will be able to set up Lipscomb’s own shelter designed to serve the Lipscomb community: students, faculty, staff and nearby neighbors who may be affected by a devastating weather event or unforeseen crisis.
When the university hosted shelters for hurricane Katrina refugees and again for local Nashvillians in the May 2010 floods, they discovered that there are actually few people on campus with enough Red Cross training to work in the shelter beyond the basic volunteer level, Hargis said. Having a fully trained shelter team on-site is more valuable than just the basic facility agreement with the Red Cross (when volunteers from throughout the city work the shelter) because it allows better access to volunteers through the organization’s own people who know the site and resources much better, Kitchen said.
The next step in Lipscomb’s emergency preparedness efforts will be to conduct specific table-top drills as well as a full-simulation disaster drill, Hargis said. A couple of tabletop exercises have already been held with Lipscomb officials, but a full simulation would involve outside public services coming to campus to carry out their role in an emergency.
Lipscomb is also working to attain the designation as a Storm Ready University within the next year, a designation awarded by the National Weather Service. 
“Although emergency and business continuity planning is never totally complete and requires continuous work, we are very proud of the progress we have made in our overall emergency planning efforts,” Hargis said.