This is a Test…of your emergency response system

April 12, 2011

Mary Chappell, Director
Jason Krone, Associate Director, Programs, Sport Club Director
Jill Urkoski; Associate Director, Fitness and Staff Development
University of Kansas Recreation Services

The fast pace world in which we live in most definitely leaves us vulnerable to all types of risk. For those who work on today’s college campuses, it is a 24/7 duty cycle that transitions from Fall to Winter, Spring to Summer, Semesters to Quarters, and Event to Event.

When a campus incident rocks your world and that of your staff and participants, have you asked yourself “Are you ready to respond?”. Can you truthfully say that you have a plan in place for everything from evacuations, to sheltering in place? Can you say that your staff is ready to respond should they be called on to do so? If not, you are strongly recommended to start the planning process as soon as you finish reading this response guideline. The time is now. Call a staff meeting, and begin the process to develop an Emergency Response Plan that works for your Campus Recreation core mission: a plan that becomes embedded in the framework of your department, unit, reporting structure and campus environment. Quoting Frank De Salvo, Associate Vice Provost at the University of Kansas: “Emergency response preparation is not only valuable in the case of unforeseen circumstances. Such processes also contribute to team building, role clarification and accountability among staff members at all levels of the organization. It is clearly a prudent and profitable investment of time and energy.”

As risk managers, the University of Kansas Recreation Services suggests the following best practice “Ready to Respond” protocol which outlines the steps that have been successfully taken over 3 years. It took this length of time in order to find a model that was manageable, effective, and realistic. The protocol is for emergencies beyond the routine ankle sprain and focuses mainly on major emergencies.

Moving into the model description – visualize your campus, staff and resources that will benefit by employing this model as a learning tool. The “Ready to Respond” sequence includes: Notification, Authentication, Activation, Evacuation or Shelter in Place, Communication, Information/Debriefing, and Documentation.

  • Notification: Is the first step in the Ready to Respond Sequence.

The Campus community being informed that an incident is in process or has taken place is critical. This can come via any of the following messaging systems:
o Receive University Administrative email
o Receive University text message
o Telephone call from Student Success (KU reporting line)
o Television/radio
o Outdoor speakers on building
o Emergency message in building (fire alarm speakers)
o Internet
o Non-official Talk- “Rumors”

  • Authentication: Before acting upon any non-authentic Notification received, verification of the legitimacy and accuracy of the situation is essential. This is done by:

o Primary (Director) or Backup Emergency Contact (3 Associate Directors and 1 Assistant Director) takes command: These individuals have access to all building keys and have a higher level or experience and responsibility within KU Recreation Services.
o Verify with Student Success that an incident is taking place or has taken place.
o Student Success has Emergency Phone number to call

  • Activation: Once there is Authentication of the incident, the response is set in motion:

o A coded message is announced on the intercom that only professional staff know, but is not out of the norm for typical announcements.
o All professional staff immediately report to the Command Center with the following important items:
*Name tags
*Building keys
*Cellular phones
*2-way radios
o Command Center
*Administrative Conference room is used
*Internet access, land line phone, cable TV, sink, restrooms, two entrances/exits, floor plans, OPM (Operational Procedural Manuals)
o Emergency Contact assigns Command Center setup tasks
*List of important phone numbers
*Backup name tags
*Maintenance key (rooftop and mechanical room access)

  • Evacuation or Shelter in Place: Emergency Contact must make a decision to either stay or leave the building:

o Deploy staff throughout the building, as needed, dependant on the situation
o Assistant to the Emergency Contact is assigned to the Command Center- documenting timelines and communication on white board.
o Report to designated station when evacuating

  • Communication: During a crisis, internal communication is vital in making sure information is passed to staff effectively. With that in mind, specific processes are in place to ensure communication with each other:

o Use proper radio protocol
o Cellular phones used as backup
o Intercom used as a backup
o University-wide Radio for communication with University Command Center
o Land line phone in Command Center
o Laptop can be used for email
o Wireless internet can be picked up in Command Center

  • Information/Debriefing: Once the incident is over, staff gather in the Command Center to:

o Review situation so that everyone understands what happened
o Prepare information to disperse to student staff
o Student staff would disperse information to participants

  • Documentation: Emergency Contact provides Director with details that took place

o Emergency Contact has 7 days to submit report
o Timeline of event
o Details of event

In 2006, this model was crafted by those initial conversations; it became a working document in which mock drills occurred, refining the plan as new issues came to light.

This informational model was presented at conferences, most notably the 2009 NIRSA Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. This model has been well received by colleagues in Student Affairs, Academic and Campus Recreation circles and it can only be strengthened by continuous discussion and practice.

Now is the time to take action and be pro-active, not re-active, for your staff, participants and University. Establish an ongoing review and drill schedule which requires staff to regularly attend to the relevance and effectiveness of your emergency plan and implementation processes.

Note: If you would like further information regarding the protocol in this article, please contact Mary Chappell,, 785.864.0789

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