Are You Prepared?  Partnerships for Emergency Response

Diane Podolske, Ph.D., Director, Office of Community Engagement, California State University, San Bernardino

April 19, 2017

We all hope we never have to respond to a school shooting incident or a natural disaster, but odds are an emergency event will happen at least once during your higher education career.  Our campus recently responded to a school shooting incident at a neighboring elementary school, with the children from the school evacuated to our university’s gymnasium.  A university is an important asset in a community, and the campus is a likely place to stage an emergency response.

You and your staff have unique skills that will be very helpful during an emergency, and it is likely that your help will be needed.  You may be called on to make quick contact with student volunteers or to mobilize community partners that can provide support, or manage campus volunteers for a response effort.  Our office coordinates our campus’ food pantry and an all-campus volunteer day, so we have snacks, crayons and coloring books, first aid kits, risk management forms, sunscreen, shovels and other equipment, plus we have staff that are skilled in handling a large volume of registrations, organizing volunteers, and delegating tasks.  Your office will have your own unique skills, abilities, and resources that will be helpful in an emergency situation, such as first aid training, bilingual translators, counseling skills, etc.

An important partnership to develop in preparation for an emergency event is with your campus police department.  Campus police officers will be at the front line of the campus’ response to an emergency, in coordination with city/county authorities and emergency responders.  If you and your office have an ongoing partnership with the campus officers, they will recognize you, know the type of assistance you can provide, and direct you to the location or task for your service.  During an emergency, things may be happening quickly and the scene may be chaotic, and it is not the time to be making introductions and describing your skill sets.  You also may not have on your university nametag or have your campus ID card with you, and the name/face recognition from the campus officer will be the only way to enter into the response area.

While our campus’ officers generally know our staff, we have not met with them to intentionally talk about the skills, partnerships, and equipment we have that may be useful during an emergency.  We will be adding an annual meeting with our campus police to our emergency planning effort so we are better prepared to assist when our help is needed!

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