Are you ready for the emergencies of the 2013/2014 school year? Do you have a thorough emergency operations plan? In our November blog series we will walk you through some key points in readiness.
Here are 3 good questions to ask in getting started:
1) Why do I need an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)?
Having an emergency operations plan is a federal requirement. Any Title IV school is subject to the Clery Law. Can students fill out a FAFSA to receive financial aid at your school? Then Clery applies to your institution. The law requires that you have an EOP, test it annually and document your procedures for doing so. If you do not have a current EOP, have not tested it annually, have not documented and published your results correctly, you are liable for a US Department of Education and Department of Justice fine of $37,500 per violation should you be audited.
Having an emergency operations plan is a best practice for ensuring the safety of your students, faculty, staff and visitors. Tornadoes, wildfires, active shooters, earthquakes, hazmat incidents, bomb threats, flooding, protests…no campus is immune to unpredictable and open ended incidents which threaten life, health and safety. A thorough plan will prepare your team and stake holders to respond to a variety of open ended situations.
2) Do I have an EOP?
Seems ridiculous, but so often at LEC Management we are told, “Yes, our school has an EOP.” But when we offer to take a look at it, it can’t be located. Maybe you were told your predecessor put together the plan, but you have no idea where it’s stored. Be sure you can put your hands on the plan now. Nothing is worse than facing an emergency and reaching for a binder that can’t be found. Be sure to have the plan in electronic and printed format and saved somewhere externally, such as a flash drive.
3) Is my EOP current?
It is very common for a school to have an EOP, but the plan itself is out of date. Colleges and universities can be like slow moving glaciers. From semester to semester things look fairly static, but look backwards in 5 year increments and the landscape is quite different. The EOP from 2005 is most likely not sufficient to address the potential disasters of 2014. Be sure to read your plan thoroughly. Is that new performing arts center included? Is your designated Emergency Operations Center in an old conference room that is now used for storage? Maybe the plan is still relevant, but your school’s administrative structure has changed. Do you have new employees? Has everyone been trained for their role?
Also be on the lookout for practical changes and decisions that have been made, but not documented in the EOP. You are most likely adept at working through situations as they come up, but documenting those decisions so that you have established institutional policy and procedure rather than informal practice can be challenging in the midst of the daily grind. Taking time to evaluate whether your plan matches current practice and meets contemporary needs is vital.
Please join us over the next few weeks as we continue to discuss Emergency Operations Plans: What makes a good plan? How do you know if your plan will work? How to test your plan and document your procedures. Feel free to contact us at any time with specific questions, thoughts or comments. Is there a topic you would like us to address in upcoming posts? We want to hear from you!