How to Know If Your Emergency Plan Is (or Isn't) Protecting Your Campus

Stay Informed

Universities and colleges face many possible risks. While it may be impossible to plan for every crisis situation, you can put processes in place to be prepared. Creating a robust emergency plan is the first step to ensuring a safe place for students, faculty, and the general public. But once your plan is in place, how do you know if it is actively protecting your campus?  

Regardless of when or where an emergency takes place, you can take steps to feel confident in your emergency plan. Here are some ways to make sure your emergency plan is effectively protecting your campus.

Keep Your Plan Updated

An effective plan is an up-to-date plan. Risks and threats can change over time, so put processes in place to continually monitor them. Conduct routine risk assessment and vulnerability surveys to help you:

  • Identify vulnerabilities
  • Rank vulnerabilities by importance and probability
  • Recommend improvements

These surveys ensure that all current threats are covered. They also identify any new threats or threats missed in the last assessment. Third-party professionals should conduct these assessments so you receive accurate, unbiased feedback on your plan.

Regularly Review Your Plan

Once the surveys are complete, set up a formal review process. Create a planning team responsible for scheduling reviews. The planning team should monitor risk and determine if changes need to be made to the emergency plan.

When changes do occur to your plan, key stakeholders must be notified. The planning team is responsible for communicating these changes to the appropriate parties. Establish a formal communication process so all stakeholders, including sponsors and first responders, are updated.

Conduct Real-World Testing

As the saying goes, the best way to “test the electric fence” is to touch the fence and see what happens. The same logic goes with an emergency plan. Actively testing your emergency plan lets you see it in action. Testing shows you where your plan is performing well and where improvements can be made. Use the following test types as an opportunity to teach and learn.

Unscheduled tests: Test the security plan with limited knowledge of the campus security team. These spot checks are unexpected and unpredictable.

Scheduled tests: A team tests the plan on a scheduled basis. These periodic checks are planned in advance.

Real-world tests must be conducted in a controlled environment. Safety is a top concern. Consider the safety of your testers, faculty, students, and security personnel as you test your emergency plan.

Drill Down on Your Plan 

The best way to know if your plan is effective or not is to test it. Conduct planned, routine drills of your plan in action. Drills simulate a possible scenario. Use the information from your risk assessment and vulnerability surveys to simulate scenarios that are:

  • most likely to happen; or
  • likely to cause the most damage.

Third-party evaluators can act as “graders” and evaluate the pros and cons of your overall strategy.

Partner with Professionals

Working with third-party teams provides you with unbiased feedback on your emergency plan. To test your plan’s effectiveness, partner with a physical assessment team. The three types of testing commonly conducted are grey, white and black.

Grey Testing: Teams gather information passively. They gain insights from publically accessible places like social media platforms and Google Images. Information can also be gained by physically walking around campus.

White Testing: Full knowledge of the campus emergency plan is known. Assessment teams receive a campus tour from security officials. Faculty and security personnel are formally interviewed.

Black Testing: No knowledge of the emergency plan is known. An assessment team conducts random intrusions without knowledge of the emergency plan.


You can rest easy knowing that your emergency plan is actively protecting your campus by: 1.) keeping your plan updated, 2.) regularly reviewing it, 3.) conducting real-world tests, 4.) drilling down on your plan, and 5.) partnering with professionals.

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