In the event of a critical situation, campuses could save lives with the help of a strong emergency plan. To get there, they must think beyond traditional security methods. Those approaches are a solid start, but they might not be enough. Now campuses must evaluate all potential security scenarios to ensure the safety of students and staff.
Here are six ways that could help you create a robust emergency operations plan for your campus.
1. Get Support From the Top
When building your planning committee, start at the top. Recruit a leadership official such as a university president or superintendent. They offer unique expertise and insights that could help strengthen your approach and will be instrumental when it’s time to implement your plan.
2. Assess Your Current Security
You could start evaluating your current security before establishing your committee. Bring in a third party to offer a true and unbiased view of your approach and help you identify vulnerabilities that should be amended in your new plan. Potential weak spots could include bottlenecked emergency exits and areas that attract large crowds.
A third party could also help you understand how someone might cause chaos on campus, including possible entry and exit strategies.
3. Identify All Potential Threats
Consider all possible threats at the start of the planning process. Meet with your planning committee to determine what threats may pose a danger to your campus. (You can enlist the help of a third party here as well.) Assess which threats are most applicable to you and how likely they are to occur. These could range from natural disasters to active shooter situations.
4. Visualize Your Plan
You will need to consider the layout and physical structure of your campus once you’ve identified applicable threats. Create a “campus picture,” such as a drawing or map, to visualize how a threat might occur and how your emergency response team should react. This is also a good time to determine how you could prevent certain events from occurring.
5. Secure an Emergency Operations Center
If there's a crisis, your campus should have an operations center that can communicate with the outside. This area should have both wired and wireless communications as well as heating, cooling, and backup power. Your hub should also have direct access to your mass notification system and all security cameras and sensors.
6. Test and Tweak Your Plan
After you implement your plan, be sure to test it at least once a quarter. Make necessary changes based on previous exercises, peer reviews, and real-world events. You should also factor in new technology as it continues to evolve.