The Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is planning to hold six sessions this spring semester to update the campus on the reviewed and revised emergency operations plan.
Mr. Paul Novak, Emergency Management Administrator and Director of Environmental Health and Safety said, “EHS has developed these campus-wide emergency training sessions for purposes of informing and communicating to everyone in the campus community the university’s concern for emergency preparedness and for augmenting the importance of it.”
The session is broken down into four main subjects. The new plan as a whole and each department on campus developing their own safety plans is discussed first. Because each department is so different and unique in what it provides to the university, extra precautions need to be identified. For example, Novak explains that a science lab with open chemicals will have different and possibly additional procedures than a common English classroom might.
Next, the National Incident Management System (NIMS) training guidelines according to PEMA are taught. The faculty must be familiar with this training in order to know all of the terminology and the concepts. The free online training is being recommended for certain positions in the departments.
“It is meant to enhance communication and enhance preparedness,” Novak said.
The emergency communication systems are also talked about in great detail to remind faculty and students of the importance they have on campus. The E2Campus Notification System is a method of free direct communication for any emergency situation, for something as small as weather delays and power outages to something as large as a suspicious person on campus or severe weather alerts.
Every student and employee is greatly encouraged by EHS to sign up to receive notifications by email, text message, and home phone in order to always be easily informed and kept as safe as possible. The Metis System, or emergency buttons located in all of the buildings on campus are also another method available in a crisis.
“I believe that [the E2Campus and Metis System] are important pieces of information that parents need to know… and they should feel that [their child] has a comfort level knowing that the university is doing everything it can to provide methods of communication,” Novak said.
Lastly, violence prevention, the stalking module, and active shooter training is discussed. There is currently a behavioral intervention team in place to assist in preventing these incidents and make students aware there is a mechanism to report any concerns.
There will also be the creation of a campus threat assessment team to handle any issues for employees.
The active shooter training that the university engages in is specialized for college campuses and certain training will hopefully be available in DVD format for training upon request and on the EHS website as well as the University Police page for interested students to participate in.
“It is meant to educate people and get them to think about these situations before they are faced with them and to start asking themselves some questions, such as, ‘What can I do if I am faced with an active shooter?’” Novak said.
The EHS is in the process of planning the dates for emergency exercises to determine how effective their plans are and finding room for improvement. The first is scheduled for Feb. 15 at Butler County Community College and is an Advanced Disaster Management Simulator for campus leaders. This was made possible by a grant through PEMA and was administered through PASSHE.
Later in the spring, after each department has developed their emergency plans, they will be tested in an exercise right on campus.
“We do want to get the message across that emergency preparedness and management is alive and well and is moving forward,” Novak said.
These concepts can only come together with the commitment of senior management, and emergency preparedness has this devotion at the highest level.
“Dr. Norton has clearly put all of her support behind emergency preparedness initiatives. She was very engaging and very supportive of all of our actions,” Novak said. “So much to the point that… she took the time out of her business and the cabinet’s business to go through the appropriate training course for campus executives in emergency preparedness.”
In addition to all of these EHS efforts, they have reached out to the Slippery Rock Student Government Association (SRSGA) in order to help get students aware of the new emergency preparedness plans.
“The SRSGA is trying to find out what the student’s perspective is and how they are going to react in an emergency,” said Jim Henry, Student Government Vice President of Student Affairs, “This is something that parents are also starting to ask more about.”
In order to inform these parents, Henry and the rest of the SRSGA first need to find out how prepared students actually feel if a threatening or dangerous situation were to arise.
Henry will focus on taking the responses from the student life survey that he prepared and sent out late last semester. In addition to its usual inquiries, Henry designed certain sections for engaging in campus safety. With questions such as “How comfortable do you feel in your dorm room?” Henry can then begin to judge where the areas of most concern are on campus and discuss it with the EHS to form a plan of action.
In order to educate the student body on campus, Henry currently plans on involving the SRSGA as a whole and possibly students in the Safety Management department to help spread the word.
“My goal for the rest of this year is to let students know of the resources they have. Knowing how to use these resources effectively is also very important so that students know exactly what to do,” said Henry.
If you have any questions or concerns about the new policy, you can contact Mr. Paul Novak at the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.
“It comes down to personal responsibility for our own safety and it really is not a bad idea to start thinking about preparing for situations before they happen,” Novak said.