Emergency Planning For Colleges, Universities and Schools | Interstate Restoration

Six Reasons Why Your Higher Education Institution Needs Emergency Mitigation Planning

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are over 4,000 two- and four-year colleges and universities, both public and private, in the United States. On those campuses, over 15 million students and an additional several million staff, faculty members, and visitors do business every day.

Given that most campuses are in urban settings and integrated into the community, coupled with the fact that there is such a great number of people spread across a great number of facilities, the need for an emergency mitigation and disaster recovery plan is imperative to guarantee the safety of students and faculty, as well as to ensure continuity of the educational process and other key institutional initiatives.

There are six characteristics unique to higher education institutions that make the need for a single, comprehensive emergency mitigation and disaster recovery plan imperative. They are:

1. Large geographic areas—College and university campuses often cover large geographic areas, ranging from several city blocks to several square miles, to satellite campuses spread across a city or state. Regardless of the geographic size, colleges and universities generally have students and faculty spread across multiple buildings and facilities, creating the need for a clear and well-vetted action plan during a natural disaster or other emergency that is ubiquitous across all campus facilities.

2. Large (and changing) campus population—The amount of people on a college or university campus can change yearly, monthly—even daily. From differences in enrollment year over year to business conferences and community gatherings, the number of people on a campus any given day can vary greatly. Having an emergency mitigation plan in place prior to an incident will help to ensure the safety of everyone on campus, regardless of how many people are present.

3. Additional enterprises on campus—Many colleges and universities operate businesses, facilities, food services, daycare centers, research facilities, athletic facilities, and more that add to the institution’s bottom line. Having a business continuity plan for these enterprises will ensure a smooth transition back to business as usual post-event.

4. Decentralized governance—In many institutions of higher education, governance is varied, complex, and highly decentralized with many schools and functions operating semi-autonomously. Given the flat nature of governance in these institutions, decision-making can often be slow and hamper emergency response. A clear and comprehensive recovery action plan can minimize these hindrances and expedite the safety of students and faculty.

5. 24/365 operations—Colleges and universities are often open around the clock, all year long. From opening recreational facilities in the early morning to security locking down lecture halls at night, along with students living in campus housing overnight, including international and out-of-state students often living in campus housing year round, the need for a defined plan that encompasses emergency mitigation and disaster recovery, no matter what time of day, is clear.

Given the unique nature of higher education institutions, early planning and consultation on a clear emergency mitigation and disaster recovery plan can prevent undue inefficiencies in business continuity and ensure the safety of students, faculty, and support staff. The key is to start early, study all stakeholders, draft a comprehensive plan, and then educate organizational response teams. A clear and organized plan can help your institution see itself through what may be its most difficult hour.