Incorporating Four Elements
- By Lauris Freidenfelds
- December 14, 2020
A crisis strikes. It could be anything…
a health pandemic, an active shooter,
a bomb threat, a loss of electrical
power, a flooded building or a severe
weather event. Who on your campus
responds? What needs to be done? Who
makes the decisions and who needs to be
contacted? These, and many more decisions
need to be made, and made quickly. But, crisis
events are difficult to manage without
some sort of structure and plan in place.
Each college or university, regardless of size,
should have a general emergency operations
plan, as well as more specific incident type
emergency action plans in place for these or
First, what is a crisis? It is an event which
alters the normal operations of the organization
or threatens/is causing harm to the
organization or its’ students, employees and
visitors. It may be slow moving/evolving,
such as a weather event. Or, it can be an
immediate incident such as a loss of utilities
or an active shooter threat.
An Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) is
more about a definition of a structure to deal
with all types of hazards and less about procedures.
Many EOPs follow the FEMA National
Incident Management System (NIMS) design.
This describes the Incident Command System
(ICS) structure. The advantage to using this
design is that it is the concept used by public
first responders, as well as FEMA. Therefore, a
college or university could have their ICS easily
align with a public response entity. There is
also a great deal of training on line from
FEMA which is free and available to all:
The EOP Should Include
Several Other Components:
- The kinds of events that warrant an ICS
- Who can, and how to, initiate the assembly
of an ICS team.
- The location of a meeting place for the ICS.
There should be at least one main location
and perhaps, if possible, alternate locations.
- It should identify who would fill each of the
roles. These should be identified by a job
position, not by a name. It should also
address the minimum level of training
required for each position.
- A format for developing the specific Incident
Action Plan (IAP). An IAP formally
documents incident goals (known as control
objectives in NIMS), operational period
objectives, and the response strategy defined
by incident command during response planning.
This is a critical aspect in managing a
crisis, keeping the team focused.
- Job action sheets for each position. These
are guidelines that define what tasks each
position is responsible for and perhaps
even when they should be undertaken.
- A communications plan which should be
aligned with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of
Campus Security Policy and Campus
Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) requirements
for Timely Warning and Emergency
Notification. This is the federal law which,
among many other items, requires campuses
to issue immediate alerts about any
emergency situation that is a threat to the
health or safety of students and employees.
- Resources available for the ICS team, which
include, but not be limited to emergency
contact information, both internal and
external, supplies and sources for additional
supplies, maps or drawings of facilities
on campus, and critical infrastructure and
Once there is a good EOP, every university
should identify potential action plans for the
types emergencies that are most likely.
OSHA standards [29 CFR 1910.38(a)]
require these EAPs for fire, evacuation and
How do you know what types of incidents
should be addressed? Each campus should
conduct a hazard and vulnerability analysis
or risk assessment. It is recommended that
this be done at least annually, since needs
change over time.
Below are two examples of assessment
scoring using publicly available tools that
can help with evaluating severity and ranking
for priority consideration. The first graph
was developed by Kaiser Permanente, the
second is from Children’s Hospital in Colorado.
While the tools have been developed
for and by healthcare, these can also be used
for university HVA.
The key is to have subject matter experts
provide good input. It never hurts to share
and compare your HVA with peer organizations
and public response resources. Their
input can make the evaluation more reliable
The types of incidents to consider should
include weather events such as snow, cold,
tornado, hurricane; natural disasters, such
as floods, earthquakes and landslides; health
events, such as pandemics; chemical, biological
or radioactive leaks or releases.
You should also consider utility disruptions
to power, water or air conditioning and
heat; technology interruptions, including
cyber attacks; incidents of criminal activity
and violence, such as bomb threats or an
active shooter threat;cCivil unrest or protest
that may make access to the campus difficult
or unsafe; and strikes, work stoppages or
labor availability issues.
Keep the EAPs broad enough to be adaptive
to changing elements, and try to follow
similar action steps for people as much as
possible. Don’t make it a step-by-step list for
a person to follow. Remember that people
will not be reading these as the emergency is
occurring. For example, prior to COVID-19,
some healthcare institutions had a plan for
what is called a High Consequence Infectious
Disease (HCID) program, to address
any kind of disease that could cause a pan- demic. They did not create individual plans
for EBOLA, COVID, H1N1, etc. The same
holds true for fire emergencies. Don’t direct
people to a specific fire stairwell, direct people
to use the closest available fire stairwell
An emergency action plan must be in
writing, kept in the workplace, and available
to employees for review. The intent is that the
EAP is to be provided to employees and students
as a quick guide of action steps to be
taken in the response to an event. For emergency
managers, an EAP should have a parent
document that is more comprehensive
and formatted to address the four elements
of the Emergency Management Continuum.
Prevention and mitigation should address
steps to take in order to avoid the emergency
event. It is always better to do this rather
than have to deal with the consequences. An
example may be having security present
where there is a high potential for violence. It
may involve training on subjects such as how
to safely work on an electrical system to
avoid electrocution and loss of power. As
shown in the HVA process, to mitigate the
probability and magnitude of impact, prevention
can help reduce the risk.
Preparedness involves having resources,
relationships, plans and operations ready in
the event of an incident. During the COVID-
19 pandemic, for example, some emergency
managers already had plans and resources in
place to obtain face masks and hand sanitizer.
Preparedness means that plans should be
in place on how to communicate to students
and staff, ensuring the mass notification system
is in place and works.
Another example involves a recent snow
event when universities closed to avoid putting
students in danger during their travel to
classes. The plan was triggered when certain
conditions were met, eliminating the inevitable
academic debate about what is unsafe
as the weather approached.
Preparedness may mean having alternative
sites to use for class meetings, if the
usual classroom building is rendered unsafe.
It means conducting evacuation drills, so
that students know what to do in a real emergency.
Don’t believe that people will step up
to a challenge without proper training and
exercise; this is an important consideration
in preparedness. Ensure that exercises and
drills are conducted to provide muscle memory
responses when needed.
Recently, there has been a lot of work
done to prepare for cyberattacks. It seems
that the adaptive aggressors are devising
devious methods to deny services and
demand ransom. Is your university prepared?
Are you willing to pay the ransom?
Do you have a response team? Are you covered
by insurance? If needed, do you have
access to bitcoin?
Response after/during the incident. Certain
actions should occur automatically.
These steps should be part of the EAP that is
distributed to student and employees. The
senior subject matter expert on duty should
be empowered to execute these steps. This
includes whatever is necessary to ensure the
safety of people involved, evacuation (if
appropriate), ensuring medical response can
be facilitated, keeping others from entering
an unsafe area and initiating emergency
Once it is safe, the ICS should be activated.
By design, the NIMS ICS structure
allows the Incident Commander to activate
some or only part of the ICS team, based on
need. Once assembled, the first step for the
ICS team is to develop the IAP. Keep this
short, don’t bite off too much. The number
of objectives should be no more than three
priorities. In many cases, time is of the
essence, so do not allow paralysis by over
analysis. Sometimes a good plan executed
on time is better than a perfect plan implemented
too late. Do not think a crisis will
follow a procedure, consider best options
and then look at what occurs next. A good
Incident Commander can take input from
various sources, synthesize the information
and make good decisions quickly. The Incident
Commander “herds the cats” in the
right direction, allowing the opportunity
for good ideas to evolve through critical
thinking during the crisis.
Recovery is too often the forgotten or
under-resourced step. It sometimes becomes
part of the response phase, but it should be
handled as separate phase. People may be
exhausted from fighting the metaphoric fires
during the response phase, so consider
bringing in fresh troops to work through the
resumption of operations. Recovery is putting
into play your business continuity plan
(BCP). Once it is safe, how do you resume
operations? As a part of preparedness, a BCP
should be developed.
If you managed through the crisis because
of your preparation, congratulations. Everyone
is safe, business is resuming, classes are
back in session and the cafeteria is serving
their meals again. But, before you high five
everyone in the Incident Command and take
that some well deserved time off, you have
one more task. It is called an After Action
Review or AAR. This is the opportunity to
learn from the incident to better prepare
your campus for the next one. Were your
assumptions correct? What went well? Want
needs improvement? What should be done
differently? Conduct an AAR as soon as it is
feasible, while the events are still fresh in
You should capture these comments and
modify your EOP and EAPs accordingly.
Never miss an opportunity to learn and
improve. It means that you will better prepared
for the next, inevitable, emergency.
This article originally appeared in the November December 2020 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.