Emergency Response

Accident Training and Response

December 16, 2015

Why my facility EAP should differ from yours
Maggie Cattell
Recreation and Aquatics Supervisor
City of Pinellas Park

It is an eventuality for every facility. An accident; someone doesn’t eat before getting on the treadmill; a child enters the water without a lifejacket; or a person played tennis in 110 degree weather for 4 hours without drinking water while wearing a sweatshirt, with a broken ankle, a day after heart surgery (pick your scenario – we’ve all been through it). For those of us that are experienced in facility and staff management, we often don’t bat-an-eye when we hear about these moments. We shake our head, grin a bit, and add another accident response to our professional tool belt. What we tend to overlook is the response of the staff and it’s reflection on the training that they have been through.

Most Campus Recreation facilities put a large amount of time, effort, and money into staff training at the beginning of every semester. Most of these trainings have the same underlying lessons of prevention and response. However, 3 months after training, ask the staff what they learned from the training and their stream of thought will go something like this “Compressions… breaths…. Ice-bag….. Pizza…. Squirrel”. A review of CPR studies revealed that 66% of students would not be able to pass the skills portion of a CPR class just 3 months after they sat through a class, led by an instructor (AED Challenge 2014). All that time, effort, and money lasts you until midterms if you are lucky. As professionals, we can become numb to the lovely nuances of our facility that cause our participants to forget to eat or leave their inhalers at home. For our staff however, anxiety about having to remember skills but also potentially endangering someone’s life can cause some staff members to flop when they should fly. So, what do we do? Read more

Active Shooter

October 18, 2015

Kate Dorrity
Assistant Director – Risk and Facilities Management
Purdue University, Division of Recreational Sports

Active Shooter: two of the most terrifying words to appear on a campus alert notification. In the blink of an eye, all the components that make campus recreation special and exciting become liabilities to personal safety: the large number of guests participating in many different activities, the transient nature of student staff, and the variety of indoor and outdoor locations with open access to all. Paired with the randomness, confusion, and fear that shootings instill in everyone, the ability to maintain safety for staff and participants is a great challenge. Preparing staff is challenging, but we can give them the skills to protect themselves by identifying ways of collecting details about the situations, focusing on a flexible plan and pairing it with experiential training. Read more

Emergency Preparation – good practices vs. overkill (Part 2)

October 18, 2015

Alison Epperson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Health Ed.
Murray State University

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series.

Staff training and expectations
How trained is your staff to respond in an emergency and then who do you protect? In a recreation setting what would you say to an employee if they just flatly refused to come to work because of a weather alert? Be it winter weather or tornados, you know at some point you’ll be faced with “It’s not safe for me to come in, so I’m not…” Do you have a policy ready for that? If you don’t, think about this situation for a minute.
In February of 2009, we had a massive ice storm that literally shut us down. We had NOTHING – we had totally taken for granted how critical power is; it provides the heat for our living spaces, warms our water, keeps our food at the proper temperature, allows the gas stations to pump gas, allows us to get money out of the ATM, and provides us basic communication. We had no TV, no internet and no cell phone service. I’ve never felt so prehistoric in all my life and I grew up before Internet, remote controls, good cable and cell phones!
Read more

Wreckage Weekend

September 15, 2014

Developing a large scale emergency training day for Titan Recreation

Alison Wittwer MA; CSCS;CPO;
Safety and Aquatics Coordinator
CSU Fullerton

After attending an aquatics conference in the fall of 2011, and enjoying a presentation on emergency training for lifeguards, I had an epiphany. Rather than have each coordinator conduct emergency training for their individual areas of supervision, why not organize an all Rec staff, large scale emergency and building evacuation training the day before the start of the spring semester? A huge undertaking to be sure, with many variables and hurdles to consider.

As recreation professionals, we all understand that organizing and implementing a large scale event from birth to fruition involves many hours of planning and development. So I started with the basics: who; what; when; where; why; and most importantly – HOW? Read more

Emergency Preparation – good practices vs. overkill

September 15, 2014

Alison Epperson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Health Ed.
Murray State University

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series.

In Recreation, we take (or at least we should), the weather seriously; we know, respect and remain diligent in our education and training when it comes to our staff and participants. We have radars, alerts, apps, email, texts, and even social media to keep us up to date at all times of the day and probably have enough experience to apply for a meteorologist position. Safety is our duty! For the most part, campus recreation programs and facilities need to think about tornados, snow/ice storms and of course hurricanes for coastal locations.

In moving to the faculty side of campus, I’ve heard my share of “I walked to school five miles each way barefoot in a snow storm” stories and “I’m not canceling class, it’s not that bad and students are required to be here, or they can take an unexcused absence!”

I’ve been on both sides; as a student commuting two hours to another school in another state for my PhD. In my first semester, a tornado watch was issued for the entire region, which included my town all the way through my school. I emailed my professor and indicated that I was nervous about being on the road for four hours round trip and the three hours of class time. My response was basically, “if you’re not here, you will not be allowed to make up the work…” Reading between the lines, I understood that I was expected to be there. I got in the car and drove, dodging storms until I just had to turn around and come home. I was only excused because there was a confirmed tornado in my path.

This experience really changed how I viewed the expectations of ‘responsibility’ on both ends, both as a student and an employer. Granted, some people will take the forecast of a possible heavy rain and thunderstorm (minus any warning) as an excuse to stay home ‘just to be safe’ as far as they can. However, for the first time in my 16 years of employment on this campus, this past October(!), professors started cancelling late afternoon and night classes at lunchtime due to the ‘high threat of damaging winds and intense storms.” Both the local and national weather services, as well as everyone in between were in a state of panic to the extent of dismissing school early. I too cancelled my class because I have commuters and relating to my own experience, I understood their concern.

Ironically, as I sat at home with my terrified son and dog waiting for the predicted 80 mph winds, downed power lines and trees to hit Murray, it didn’t. It hit all around us, but not our town. We just got a lot of rain! In confusion, I kept watching the radar and the news, hearing reports about damage all around us, but nothing more than flooding for us.

While I’m not going to say that I didn’t enjoy my early night at home and quality time with my son, I’ll admit I felt kind of stupid (as did a majority of our faculty) at canceling class 6 hours early and falling in line with the rest of the community in our effort to ensure student safety.

Unfortunately, it is situations just like these that just reinforce those who feel we are too quick to panic. It’s like the boy who cried wolf.

In relation to your programs and staff (club sports, fitness, recreation centers, intramural staff and officials), it may be time to think about a well-written policy ‘in the event of a weather-related emergency.’ You may need to get down to total nit picking, to establish clear expectations while maintaining the safety and wellbeing of everyone. As most of you already know, it is always better to have something in writing that everyone understands and agrees to as party of their employment.

For example, if you have flag football games planned from 6-10 pm and a tornado watch (not a warning) has been issued for that exact time span, what would you expect of your staff? It would most likely be to your advantage to have a policy that states staff and officials are expected to remain at work until such time (and you may even determine a time or distance) that it appears eminent that dangerous weather is approaching.

Part of your staff training could be that they understand and pre-plan a designated safety location if this happens. This offers protection to you as an employer in that you clearly explained and agreed upon these terms for employment in regards to ‘reasonable expectations.’ You are not forcing someone to wait until the last minute only to be swept up and on their way to OZ, therefore, these types of policies could be a way to prevent being accused of negligence. I would highly recommend you also consult with your University Legal Council before putting anything into place or creating a policy; I’m just suggesting food for thought.

Likewise, if you force someone to come to work when a weather alert has been issued and the storm approaches faster than expected, or a tree or power line goes down and that person is somehow affected, where does the responsibility lie? “Weather” occurs, that’s just the reality, but consider all the legal and ethical ramifications surrounding ‘reasonable expectations.’ If guidelines and expectations are not spelled out and agreed upon, you will find yourself with lots of people ‘erring on the side of caution’ and not coming to work – what do you do then? Do you shut down and cause a stir because your programs and services aren’t in operation…?

During the winter of 2014, our campus was shut down a total of five days – that’s a record for our school. Not all at once, but three consecutive days which I don’t ever remember happening before (and I’ve lived here since 1978). Here’s what got me, we got into this ‘essential vs nonessential staff’ quandary – the grounds crew were working around the clock to remove snow and ice in an effort to increase accessibility, but that didn’t solve the problem for those who couldn’t get out of their own driveway, or travel down the ice packed roadways that were not properly prepped by the city!

Bottom line, the out-of-the-ordinary is unfortunately becoming somewhat of a norm. There’s no question climate change is changing the types and amounts of weather blasting across the country. Make a plan, be prepared!

Part 2 in this series will focus on staff training.


Because One CPR Class is Not Enough: Part 1

September 15, 2014

Looking beyond into student learning, preparedness, and assessment

Shannon Dere
University of Arkansas

Julie Saldiva
Texas State University

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two parts.

Risk Management, the big buzz word floating around campus recreation right now, has a lot of recreation professionals on edge but many may not be quite sure of how to go about managing risk properly. One of the biggest risks that campus recreation departments have involves their student staff. Generally speaking, these staff members are expected to work front-line operations and carry out daily risk management practices, including applying first aid and CPR/AED skills when needed. But are we properly preparing our students to succeed in situations where this knowledge and these skills will be needed most?

Many campus recreation programs are taking a proactive step in ensuring that most or all student staff is trained in CPR/AED and first aid, however, many programs stop after the initial certification class. Most of these certifications, regardless of the provider, last typically from one to three years before a renewal is needed. Additionally, many certification providers are not only simplifying the techniques they teach, but also offer online courses where students never have the opportunity to practice their skills. With such a variation of training and certification renewal options, inconsistencies in knowledge and skills are significant, and student staff are likely to forget much of their training. Read more

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