This fall, Whitman College is finalizing a revised emergency preparedness plan designed to improve response during a number of potential events, from weather-related incidents and natural disasters to human-caused crisis.
The process began in December 2017, when the President's Cabinet set as a priority for the year the reviewing and updating the existing emergency preparedness plan and ensuring the campus community knew what to do in the event of a crisis.
The effort is being led by CFO Peter Harvey in partnership with staff and faculty from across campus. The planning group worked with Emergency Planning Solutions, LLC, (EPS) to evaluate the risks most likely to occur at Whitman and in Walla Walla, and how prepared the college was to respond to them. That information was used to update the college's emergency preparedness plan.
The planning group consisted of Harvey; Senior Director of Communications Gina Ohnstad; Director of Security Matt Stroe; Fred Miller, environmental health and safety manager; Chief Information Officer Dan Terrio; Dan Park, director of the physical plant; and Associate Professor Bruce Magnusson; and then-Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Darren Mooko.
As part of the plan revision, Whitman College adopted the FEMA's multi-hazard emergency management system, which is used by emergency response agencies throughout the nation and the Walla Walla region.
"Adopting the FEMA system improves our ability to communicate clearly with other responding agencies in case of a large-scale event," Harvey said. "It means that we're all speaking the same language and are organized in the same way."
EPS conducted several training sessions for the college on the emergency plan and the FEMA system, including one for cabinet members and a three-day training for 30 people who play lead or back-up roles in responding to different types of emergencies.
EPS will return to campus in October to conduct several training sessions for all faculty, staff and students on responding to emergencies. The one-hour trainings will be Tuesday, Oct. 23, and Wednesday, Oct. 24, in Maxey West. The trainings are at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day. All Whitman community members are encouraged to attend.
"These trainings are so important for our college community," Harvey said. "I think we're all much more acutely aware of the risks, given the events happening on college campuses in recent years. We know that if we're prepared, we can reduce the severity of the impact in an emergency."
The trainings will talk about how to respond to a variety of events, including building evacuations, a community health crisis, sheltering in place, an active threat to campus, and weather-related events.
"Helping keep our campus safe isn't just the responsibility of one person, or even our team of trained staff," Harvey said. "A safe campus is the responsibility of everyone. It's about having good situational awareness, a commitment to safety, and the knowledge of how to respond."
The college is also addressing physical issues that impact safety, including installing locks on classrooms and labs so they can be locked from the inside and upgrading the emergency broadcast software and website. The college uses emergency.whitman.edu to share updates during an incident.
More information about Whitman's emergency management plan will be posted as its available on the Environmental Health and Safety website.