National Preparedness Month marked with fire simulation, trainings

By Janel Shoun on 8/31/2011


With the consequences of Hurricane Irene and the East Coast earthquake still at top of mind, Lipscomb University is planning a special training and demonstration for September, FEMA’s National Preparedness Month.
A fire simulation drill for students, training for faculty and staff designated as building coordinators and new informational flip charts in the K-12 classrooms at David Lipscomb Campus School are among the preparation efforts to be carried out over the next couple of months on the Lipscomb campus, said Kathy Hargis, director of risk management.
“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,” said Hargis, who also serves as secretary for the national University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA).
Lipscomb is not alone. According to Hargis and other officers of URMIA, universities nationwide have turned their eyes to more comprehensive emergency preparation procedures in the decade since 9/11 and in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. Measures enacted by many universities include text alert systems, implementing the National Incident Management System and pulling more departments throughout the university into the crisis preparation process.
Four universities in Tennessee have completed the National Weather Service’s (NWS) StormReady program, training employees as weather spotters, installing storm sirens and an outdoor public address system, holding seminars on public readiness and developing a formal hazardous weather plan, said Tom Johnstone, with the Nashville NWS office. 
In the past decade, not only have high-profile natural disasters and crimes brought attention to campus safety, but public expectations have been raised, requiring universities to be more vigilant, said Mike Bale, president of URMIA and director of risk management at Oklahoma State University. Now universities can be fined for not being properly prepared and technology has allowed universities to create better alert systems than ever before, he said.
At Lipscomb, Hargis has pulled together officials from the facilities department, the College of Pharmacy, campus life, safety and security and other areas to prepare the campus for as many as 1,400 people to live independently on campus for up to five days if needed. Over the past few years the university has:
  • Installed three 550-gallon water tanks to service a disaster shelter,
  • Stockpiled enough emergency food to sustain the campus for five days,
  • Purchased basic medical supplies needed to launch an on-campus triage clinic staffed by Lipscomb’s health care faculty and students,
  • Sent various campus personnel to Red Cross training for running a mass care, large-scale disaster shelter on campus, and
  • Established a text alert system and an outdoor warning system.
This summer, Lipscomb brought together 20 faculty and staff to receive specialized training from the Red Cross 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.
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.
“An official with Nashville’s Emergency Management Agency recently toured the campus and he was extremely impressed with what we have implemented,” said Hargis. “He was unaware of any other school in Tennessee that had prepared to the extent Lipscomb has.”
For more details on how Lipscomb has prepared for an emergency, click here.
“The biggest change is that universities are all coming to the conclusion that emergency preparation isn’t just a one-man shop,” said Steve Holland, assistant vice president for risk management services at the University of Arizona, which suffered its own on-campus shooting incident in 2002. “It requires a lot of partners within the university as well as outside agencies. In the past, it wouldn’t have been uncommon to have one person at a university in charge of all emergency preparation.
“There is no question that all types of emergency preparation have been put much higher on the radar at all universities,” Holland said.