Planning Campus Demands
Taking steps to help students, faculty and staff recover after a disaster
- By Stephen R. Aborn, Joshua Skule
- October 01, 2020
It is no surprise that horrific acts by active shooters on campus generate
national headlines. Fortunately, active shooters on campus are relatively
rare events. However, virtually every college and university will,
at some point, experience a tragedy that they’ll need to recover from.
Campus calamities include natural disasters, cyber breaches crimes,
and health pandemics, like the one we are in now. What steps should campuses
take after a disaster to help students, faculty and staff recover? Just as
each college class has required reading, a required document for each and
every college should be a comprehensive risk management plan.
Ensure 360 Degree Representation in Planning
The first step in developing a plan is to establish a multi-disciplinary
framework that ensures every area of the college is represented
from administrators including the facilities, athletics, resident halls,
wellness centers, research labs, human resources, academic deans and
representatives, security/campus police and legal.
Additionally, it is critically important to include local and state law
enforcement and fire departments, as they are likely to respond to a
campus crisis as well. If an institution has a significant research and
development program, they should consider the potential theft of
sensitive research. Further, the college or university may want to consider
incorporating federal law enforcement into its crisis planning.
Risk management plans detail every conceivable scenario and are
pertinent to regional variances of the individual colleges and universities.
For example, a college in Hawaii may need to address very
different set of risks versus a college in the mid-west. Making that risk
management plan come to life via continual training and regularly
scheduled drills are vital to success.
We count many of the country’s finest universities and colleges as
our clients. Serving those clients brings us into contact with a wide
range of higher education security challenges and brings home the
importance of having a comprehensive risk management plan in place.
Developing a Threat Assessment
The first step in developing a risk management plan is to engage in
a thorough threat assessment. A threat assessment is a crucial component
of a comprehensive school safety program. An effective threat
assessment provides school professionals with a framework to prioritize
risk allowing schools to apply fiscal and staff resources with a
thoughtful approach to mitigation.
Risk management plans provide a framework within which a college
or university can more effectively manage a crisis, and create clear and
defined objectives for its recovery. These plans include operational and
strategic overviews to ensure that a crisis is contained and controlled
properly. Management skills in communicating with staff, students, the
media and the community, together with the ability of management to
determine post-crisis goals and recovery strategies.
The Department of Homeland Security is engaging school administrators,
teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders across
the K-12 and college university communities, as well as law enforcement
and other first responders who serve those communities, to
raise awareness and communicate best practices. They also offer a
wealth of resources that are available online.
An overall recovery plan provides a framework within which a
college or university can manage the crisis, and create clear and
defined objectives for the institution’s recovery. Management skills in
communicating with staff, students, the media and the community,
together with the ability of management to determine post-crisis
goals and recovery strategies, can determine the college’s quickest
route to mitigation or recovery.
Recovery Planning: One Size Doesn’t Fit All Campuses
While each recovery plan must be developed to an institution’s
unique needs, including student population, geographic locations, and
other variables, there are numerous common elements that have been
defined in work done jointly by the Department of Homeland Security
and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement
Administrators (IACLEA). These organizations’ planning templates
help an institution think through the varied aspects of a recovery plan.
As discussed, the creation of a truly effective plan requires the
partnership and coordination of numerous departments both internally
and externally. The on-going communication between all parties
on a regular cadence ensures everyone is updated to any and all
the changes that inevitably occur on a regular basis on most campuses.
Ultimately, effective planning requires collaboration, foresight,
diligence and a plan that is actively tested with mock scenarios.
Schools should identify key staff to receive training based on their
roles and responsibilities in the overall emergency management program
as well as the specific responsibilities related to emergency preparedness,
incident management, and response.
IACLEA is an organization that presents resources and information
for public safety including best-practices for COVID-19. Their pandemic
resources include best practices for communicating via multiple channels
to various audiences, resources around best practices on community protection
and safeguards, crisis response, employee safety and protection as
well as links to Federal and State law enforcement resources.
There is a wide body of experience dealing with the personal exposure
and response to a major incident. Post-incident professional
counseling for a host of issues requires mobilizing assistance to those
who might need support. Individuals will act out differently. Quick
and broad response to an incident will help lower the stress that is
certain to accompany a major incident. A big challenge for staff is to
avoid personalizing the tragedy, as in ‘if only I had been in that room
to stop it’ or ‘I wish I had not taken a vacation day on Friday,’ etc. the
recovery process really starts at a community level and narrows its
way through affected groups and individuals,”
Avoiding the Spread of an Incident’s Impact
Instant, multi-modal communication to students and faculty during
an emergency situation keeps the campus community as safe as possible. Timely warnings of significant specific crimes that threaten
a campus are mandated through the Clery Act. These warnings need
to include credible information that can be used to prompt immediate
student and employee action in response to the event.
Promulgating these warnings and informative directions to large
populations on a campus remains a challenge and requires many different
simultaneous methods including sirens, loudspeakers, email,
text messaging, social networking tools and word of mouth.
These multi-modal communication tools aid in minimizing
tragedies and were used at the account manager’s school where
students and staff were ordered to stay in classes and offices during a
two-hour campus lockdown. Emergency notification systems are also
proving to be life savers in the case of significant natural and manmade
Tap into Trusted Networks One of the leading voices for the
campus public safety community is IACLEA, International
Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. IACLEA
provides a clearinghouse for information and issues shared by
campus public safety directors across the country. Membership in
IACLEA is open to colleges, universities and secondary schools
throughout the United States, Canada and other countries, as well as
individual campus law enforcement directors and staff, criminal
justice faculty members, municipal chiefs of police, companies
offering campus law enforcement products and services, and
individuals who support professionalism in campus law enforcement
administration. The organization’s collaborations with the
Departments of Justice, Education and Homeland Security as well as
with peer stakeholder organizations within Higher Education, have
led to much targeted guidance on dealing with all hazards on a college
or university campus.
Campus Safety and Shrinking Budgets
When choosing the mix of security elements needed to protect a
campus and to minimize the after effects of campus calamities, the
inevitable ultimately rears its ugly head: the budget. Universities need
to find a cost-effective total solution for security that ensures that
staff, faculty and students are as safe as feasibly possible.
Building a comprehensive crisis plan will identify the requisite
resources and effort to successfully reduce risk. When a crisis strikes,
there is no greater priority than to mitigate the threat. The cost will
vary by the degree of the crisis, and hopefully, many of the costs are
ameliorated through prior planning. However, when a major tragedy
impacts a campus, the most immediate need is for a visible response
that can provide reassurance that things will soon return to normal.
In the aftermath of incidents, many universities have called upon
security and facility services forces as the most effective way to bolster
the community’s confidence by creating a visible deterrent. We
are often used by colleges and universities to add to their internal
force and we frequently increase foot coverage and use bikes and
motorized vehicles of many kinds to target critical areas of concern.
Regardless of the time of day, security personnel can create another
barrier to entry and personally check credentials prior to entrance to the
outer perimeter of the campus or residence halls, libraries, academic
buildings and research facilities. Security professionals can also staff gatehouses
and perform patrols using (and respond to other incidents discovered
through) video surveillance. Security services are also often called in
to escort students, faculty, staff and visitors around and off campus.
This article originally appeared in the September October 2020 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.