With another academic year drawing to a close next month, Fort Hays State University is making major progress toward fully implementing a new Emergency Management Plan that was approved last September by the President's Cabinet.
The new plan assigns responsibilities to numerous university employees in the areas of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery, and those employees have begun formal training that is coordinated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Members of the Critical Incident Policy Group, which developed the FHSU plan, have already completed several levels of the training.
Partly in response to the massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007, FHSU created a Crisis Management Plan that gathered existing crisis protocols into a single document and established a more formal response process than had previously existed. Shortly after that plan went into effect, the Kansas Board of Regents hired a consultant to review the crisis plans of all the state universities, community colleges and technical schools.
The consultants identified two deficiencies in FHSU's post-2007 Crisis Management Plan: 1. Although the FHSU plan included threat assessment, which is the process of recognizing and dealing with potential problems in order to head off a crisis before it occurs, the consultants recommended the development of a more extensive and effective process; and 2. The consultants noted that the FHSU plan should be compatible with the National Incident Management System to assure that emergency responses on campus would be most effectively coordinated with outside agencies.
NIMS and the Incident Command System were created by the federal government to guide departments and agencies at all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector to work seamlessly to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location or complexity, in order to reduce the loss of life and property and harm to the environment.
Accordingly, Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, assembled a team to develop the new Emergency Management Plan. Todd Powell, FHSU's general counsel and executive assistant to the president, was named coordinator of the team. Powell and Ed Howell, director of University Police, serve as the university's emergency co-managers under the new plan. The university continued to operate under the original Crisis Management Plan until the new Emergency Management Plan was approved last fall.
FHSU's new Emergency Management Plan incorporates NIMS compliance, and it also creates a Behavioral Intervention Team, coordinated by Shana Meyer, assistant vice president for Student Affairs. The Behavioral Intervention Team, with representatives from all areas of the university, meets regularly to evaluate reports of behavioral threats.
While the new Emergency Management Plan was being developed, the team reviewed the Emergency Notification System that had been put into place following the Virginia Tech incident. In the case of a crisis or emergency, the ENS sends alerts by telephone, text message and e-mail to students, faculty and staff who have provided emergency contact information. The original vendor was not able to deliver the alerts effectively by text message, which was the mode preferred by students, so FHSU changed vendors. Tests of the new vendor -- Rave Mobile Safety -- confirmed that the alerts were delivered and received more quickly and effectively through all three modes: telephone, text message and e-mail.
However, for the Rave alert system to work at maximum efficiency, separate categories were created for landlines and mobile telephones. That means all students, faculty and staff should check to see that their emergency contact information is up to date.
To update existing information or to sign onto the Emergency Notification System for the first time, students, faculty and staff should go to TigerTracks on the FHSU website, log in, and then go to the "Contact Information" page under the "Online Services" tab. Next, enter emergency telephone numbers and an e-mail address in the "Emergency Notification Information" area. Those who have not activated a TigerTracks account should visit the CTC HelpDesk website or call the HelpDesk at 628-5276 for assistance.
The Critical Incident Policy Group conducts a system-wide test of the Emergency Notification System at least once each academic year. Students, faculty and staff can expect another test before the end of the current academic year.
For complete information about the Emergency Management Plan, visit http://www.fhsu.edu/crisis/home/ on the FHSU website.
In addition to moving forward with implementation of the new plan through the extensive training that is under way, the Critical Incident Policy Group is exploring improvements in the alert system. The possible improvements include digital signage across campus that would display alerts on television monitors and creation of a feature on the home page of the FHSU website that would provide detailed information during an emergency.