University continues to prepare community for emergencies through strategic planning

By Kim Chaudoin on 9/24/2013

   
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As the nation recently experienced yet another tragedy with the mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., Lipscomb University officials reflect on the institution’s emergency management procedures and preparation during National Emergency Preparedness month.

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Three 500-gallon tanks are part of the emergency supply located on campus.
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An emergency food supply for up to five days is part of the university's emergency management plan.
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Meal replacement equivalency bars contain the daily nutrient allowance.
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Bottled water is part of the university's emergency stockpile.

Kathy Hargis, Lipscomb University risk manager, said that over the last few years the institution has developed policies, procedures and plans to make students, faculty, staff and guests better prepared for unexpected emergency situations.

“The safety and security of our students is our number one priority,” said Hargis. “By nature, university campuses are open and inviting to the community. However, along with that comes risks. No university is immune from something happening, but we can work to prepare our communities and train them to know what to do when emergencies happen.”

University officials have developed an emergency management plan that outlines procedures to follow in responding to specific emergencies. Hargis said the goals of the plan are to support the safety and welfare of students, faculty, staff, guests and the surrounding community and to respond to emergency situations in a safe, effective and timely manner.

“We conduct continuous planning to minimize the risk of personal injury,” said Hargis. “We continually evaluate the plans we have in place and the preparations we have made to make sure we are ready for any unforeseen critical situation from a weather event to situations that we have witnessed in recent years at universities across the country.”

Hargis said the plan categorizes different levels of emergencies and identifies the emergency management team with specific assigned duties as well as the role various offices on campus play in these events.

A major emphasis of this plan is to have methods in place for notifying the campus community in the event of an emergency and to prepare them to know what to do in response.

Hargis said emergency response guides have been produced that outline procedures for responding to various situations including fires, floods, bomb threats, active shooter on campus, chemical incidents and severe weather threats among other situations. Copies of the guide are located in a number of buildings and classrooms across campus so they are handy in the event of an emergency.

Resident assistants, residence hall directors and building coordinators are continually trained on these response procedures and other safety measures such as fire extinguisher and defibrillator use among other techniques, Hargis said. University-wide training is also conducted on interaction with minors, she said.

One of the challenges is alerting the university community in the event of an emergency, Hargis said.

“We use a combination of high-tech and low-tech methods to try to alert as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, when the need arises,” said Hargis.

A text alert service, an outdoor warning system, university phone system, campus television announcement channel, email and the university website are among the channels through which critical information is distributed in an emergency situation.

University officials are also prepared for a long-term emergency. Hargis said that Lipscomb is the only university in Nashville that has an emergency supply shelter in place. The shelter has food supplies to feed the student body and employees for five days, has a stockpile of water, medical supplies, blankets and other items to care for those on campus in an emergency.

The campus is also equipped to serve the larger community if needed. The university is a designated Red Cross Shelter, and has served the community during the 2010 flood, during hurricane evacuations and other situations. In addition, the Nursing and Health Sciences Center that opened last fall, includes a 16-bed training area that is set up as a fully equipped hospital floor. It may be used as a triage area in the event of a campus or community disaster.

Hargis said the university also works closely with Metropolitan Nashville officials to develop relationships and plans to work more efficiently during an emergency. Just this summer, Hargis met with Nashville’s radio command team to establish a protocol for Lipscomb to access the city’s radio system in an emergency.

“It’s essential to develop these relationships before a crisis situation arises so we can more efficiently and effectively maintain the safety of our students and employees in an unexpected situation,” said Hargis.

For more information about Lipscomb’s emergency plan, visit www.lipscomb.edu/orm.