CDM - Disaster plans for college & university students
Disaster plans for college & university students

College and University Students

For many years, universities and colleges across the region have been producing academics that specialize in disaster preparedness. However, at the same time, colleges and universities have often been guilty of not practicing what they preach. Many tertiary level campuses across the region do not have a sound disaster plan ready.

Now more than ever before, university and college students are recognizing the need to be better prepared for disasters. Students are becoming aware of the risks associated with emergencies either by experience or by having seen them in the media. They have realised that disasters can damage homes, schools, businesses and ultimately cause long term damage to our countries’ economies. As a college student you can make sure that your school is ready for a disaster.

How can I make this plan?

It is more complicated to create a disaster preparedness plan for a university or college. However, the process can be summarized into five main steps:

Establish an effective planning process
The planning process happens even before you create your plan. Here is where you decide what kind of plan your school needs and it is just as important as the plan itself. Will one plan be enough? Are you responsible for branch campuses? Do persons who live on campus need a separate plan?

How a campus approaches disaster planning will determine how successful the plan is. It will lay the foundation for the rest of the plan. Having this preparation will help to reduce surprises. Of course, there will always be the problems that you cannot anticipate so responders should be trained to act independently. The real purpose of this step is so that University officials can be much more confident in the action that they take because they are familiar with the response system and campus plan.

Establish cross-institutional teams to build support
For a campus disaster plan, there will need to be committees, advisory groups and task forces as well as the collaboration of National Disaster Organizations and even the government. Other sectors of the campus should also have input into the creation of this plan, and they should be organized so that they can work together. These on campus groups include:

  • Any departments with a role in direct emergency response. For example, campus emergency management, law enforcement, health and safety, hospitals and/or campus health centres, transportation.
  • Departments with key support roles, such as housing and food services, banks and bursaries, personnel, computing and communications, public relations, athletics.
  • Policy and Administration officials. This may include representatives of the President/Vice President’s office or Chancellors office.
  • Student and faculty/research interests. The student guild, class representatives and faculty must be supportive of this plan. Also, research is a major key to developing the plan itself.
  • Include local and regional partners. This includes other universities, neighbouring countries and regional agencies.

Use all-hazards planning to anticipate changing needs
You must never allow yourself to fall into the trap of simply reacting to a disaster. Too often in the Caribbean, we hear people complaining that they weren’t given enough warning before a disaster, when in truth, we should always be prepared.

Do you know what potential human-caused, technological and natural hazards can impact your campus? A good disaster plan is one that can anticipate all of these threats and hazards and should be flexible enough to provide a framework for effective response and recovery.

Your campus emergency plan will only demonstrate its usefulness and value if it is actually used. This plan must be tested by using planned drills not only so that students and staff can become familiar with them, but so that any loop holes can be fixed.

  • Include a crisis communications component

Do you have a method of informing your campus of a disaster? How quickly people can find out about a disaster effects how well they can respond. For this reason, you need to have a good communications plan. To do this you must use various sources, like an intercom, television or radio station (both on and off campus). Remember during this time not to induce panic, and to use short and clear sentences to best get your message across.

  • Maintain a phased and progressive planning cycle

Do not try to accomplish too much, too fast. Understand that this process will take time and will need contributions from several sources. Even when the plan is created, this is only the beginning. It needs to be practised and fine tuned until it is almost perfect.

Here are some additional tips you can use when making your disaster plan:

  • Be aware of the types of emergencies/hazards that can potentially affect your campus.
  • Plan a meeting with your classmates, roommates, and co-workers to discuss disaster preparedness.
  • Discuss what to do in an evacuation: driving routes, meeting places, list of contacts.
  • Determine how you will exit your classrooms, dorm, or house in case of an evacuation. Know at least two ways to get out.
  • Find out if your school already has a disaster plan and learn more about it.
  • Plan for several different meeting places. One place should be directly outside of your apartment, dorm, or house. Have a meeting place on campus as well. Give your family members and roommates a copy of this information in case they cannot find you after a disaster.
  • Discuss and practice how to turn off electricity, water, heating, cooling systems, and gas in your dorm.
  • Assemble a disaster supply kit for at home, at work, and in your vehicle.

Take a course in first aid and CPR.

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