Emergency management in the Irish University Sector
Emergency management in Irish Universities is majorly concerned with: how first to respond to the emergency and how to deal with the aftermath. This research paper reviews literature on best practices in training, planning and preparedness, decision making, and business Continuity Management. The paper uses main emergency management document s such as “A Framework for Major Emergency Management 2006” and the FNLPA guidelines to emergency management. The review also covers the best practice in emergency management as applied by the Universities in the UK, USA and other parts of the world.
In reviewing literature on emergency management, the paper intends to highlight, compare and put into context best practices in emergency management so as to assist in helping the Irish universities sector to prepare, respond and manage emergency effectively. Introduction The Irish university sector just like any other sector or even nation is subject to a range of emergencies such as transport accidents, fires, hazardous substances and severe weather conditions inter alia. Some of these emergencies are small-scale occurrences which are mostly handled by the principal emergency services.
On the other side, there are potentially extreme occurrences that are beyond the management of the principal emergency services. The nation of Ireland has
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In the light of this matter, “A framework for major emergency Management” is a key tool in strengthening the capability of the Irish university sector in tackling the challenges brought by such occurrences . A framework for emergency management is primarily designed to ensure that the general public is protected, supported and even secured from emergency disasters. The concept of emergency management is to put the Irish university sector in a good position when dealing with emergencies (Asghar, Alahakoon & Churilov 2006, p. 4).
Definition and scope of emergency management The term “emergency”, can be defined as an unanticipated and potentially hazardous situation that requires immediate action. The term is used to describe a broad range of situations. These may range from Minor situations -which are readily handled by the persons without the involvement of emergency services involvement, through “normal” emergencies-these involve the principal emergency services, to major emergencies . Most emergency frameworks are based on an “All-Hazards” approach .
This is where common characteristics of coordinated response and the management of common occurrences are recognized, irrespective of the source of the hazard (McEntire, D, 2002, p. 170) The concept of disaster or emergency management consists of three major parts; all types of hazards (technological and natural calamities and attacks), partnership with all the stakeholders, and the stages of emergency management. For the Irish university sector, the stakeholders include; the government, all universities and the university community.
Partnership helps in finding resources for disaster management among all levels of say the government and the private sector (industries and businesses, voluntary organizations, and the general public). The approach is meant to allow disaster victims to voice their opinions and even contribute towards emergency management solutions. In an emergency life cycle, disasters are not just a onetime affair; disasters exist throughout time and are considered to have a life cycle of occurrence.
This cycle consists of a series of management phases: establishing strategies to mitigate hazards; disaster planning, preparedness and respond to emergencies; and recovery measures from the effects. Background Distinct Characteristics of Emergency Planning at Institutions of Higher learning Institutions of higher learning have many challenges when it comes to practicing emergency management. Most of these challenges are directly related to the distinctive structure and the unique environment of higher education.
University campuses and colleges cover large geographic areas, and sometimes they make take a whole town with the full extension of their services to the community around them. Such activities may include medical centers, businesses, sports complexes, and residential premises or centers among others. Campus population is always dynamic, changing from time to time. The many complex enterprises such as research hospitals, businesses and other development facilities, pose enormous challenges for accessing controlling, monitoring, defining boundaries for facilities and decision-making processes (Cosgrave 1996, p.
50). Another challenge is prioritizing of resource allocations. The Irish higher education system The approximated population of Ireland stands at about 4 million people with more than 55% of the graduates from higher education consisting of the school leavers’ cohort. Higher education in Ireland is a binary system-consists of seven universities and fourteen Institutes of Technology. Universities receive funding from the Higher Education Authority and have substantial autonomy over their own administration.
On the other hand, Institutes of Technology receive their funds directly from the Department of Education of Science. (IQAU, 2005, p. 1). Individual universities have independent authority in developing and implementing their own procedures. However, in 2003, the inter university quality steering committee (IUQSC) of the rector’s conference (IUA) reached an agreed “Framework for Quality in Irish Universities” (IQAU, 2005, p. 2). Such organization creates a good basis for the formation of an emergency management framework, since it fosters integration and partnership.
Phases of emergency management From the period of World War II, the subject of emergency management has focused majorly on disaster preparedness. For the community of Irish universities, preparedness for all hazards requires detailed identifying of the resources and expertise in beforehand, and planning how these can be effectively utilized to manage disaster. However, planning and preparedness is only one of the phases of emergency management. The modern school of thought defines four phases of emergency management.
This include; mitigation, planning and preparedness, response, and recovery (Kimberly 2003, p. 80). Mitigation This is the first phase in the emergency management cycle. Prevention is simply the measure taken by universities to decrease the probability of a disaster occurring. Mitigation on the other side is the action taken by universities to eliminate or reduce the loss of property due to a disaster. Mitigation applies to those disasters that cannot be prevented. In order to be able to classify which hazards to prevent and which ones to mitigate, there should be an identification process.
The U. S department of education has an official identification known as, “A Guide to School Vulnerability Assessments: Key Principles for Safe Schools. ” When using an identification method, it is easier for universities to carry out assessment in their respective campuses and colleges. This is done in collaboration with various stakeholders (representatives and communities). The assessment framework is able to identify virtually all the hazards that could result into disasters. For the Irish university sector, the concept of prevention-mitigation of potential hazards has been used.
Conventionally, the institutions of higher learning been involved in ensuring that the learning environment is safe and secure. However, in order to come up with an integrative approach to emergency management, the context of emergency management changes and therefore demands more structuring and formality. In order to come up with a comprehensive emergency management framework, more attention needs to be paid to the following key areas; • Carrying out data reviews: Data on past vulnerability assessments are reviewed on potential hazards on campus and the university community.
The reviewing of this data helps in facilitating current vulnerability assessments. The data reviewed includes; crime hazard data and natural hazard-related data, such on tsunamis, floods, tornado, and storms among others. • The next step is to assess the facilities and grounds. Assessing facilities and grounds involves careful selection and utilization of tools to assess university vulnerabilities. • The third step involves Assessing culture and climate. This will help the preventing the occurrence of violence, accidents, and other harmful activities in the Irish universities.
A safe environment is enhanced by the nurturing a good campus community. However, the challenge is fostering healthy societal association among students and supporting the goal of connection among students and the immediate community. Furthermore, to enhance the learning environment, positive associations and connectedness are fundamental hazard-prevention factors- they reduce the likelihood of the occurrence of violence. On the contrary, an environment that is prone to drug use precipitates violence quite often. Planning and Preparedness
In the application of predetermine measures, emergency planning and preparedness should target the level of managing disasters to a bare minimum. This means that best practices in emergency planning calls for constant improvising so as to increase efficiency in emergency management and adequate preparedness calls for premeditated oversight. In addition to this May et al. , (1996, p. 63) and FEMA (2000, p. 31), have indicated that emergency planners should aim at ensuring that risks are and managing disasters sustainably.
However, it is difficult to define what this exactly means since planning is meant to reduce vulnerability to disaster rather than the perpetuation of it. Most researchers have indicated that at least 90 percent of disaster relief over the first days after is usually supplied locally and not imported from far (Dynes 1994, p. 114). This is why the regional or even local authorities should be highly considered for the success of an emergency plan by the Irish university sector. Good planning is aimed at increasing local capability in dealing with disasters.
This is effectively done by complementing and reinforcing local plans, and not supplanting what has been locally documented. It is also imperative to not that, “planning is about process and not procedures” (Amman, Dannenmann, & Vulliet 2006 p. 53). An effective emergency management framework will not tell a security guard on how to evacuate students from their premises; instead the plan details exceptional measures and protocols. This leads to what May et al. , (1996, 31) refers to as interoperability and coordination among organizations-are good practices.
Moreover, an emergency action plan should be based crafted bearing in mind the available resources. A resource audit should be carried out first to estimate what is needed to cater for an emergency when it occurs (Alexander 2002, p. 89). This implies that simulating disaster scenarios is important in highlighting vulnerability, impact and response for most if not all of the foreseeable risks in the scope of the plan. In most cases, simulated scenarios will be based on past experiences and the Irish university sector is not short of such (examples here).
An argument that it is impossible to make exact predictions of catastrophe related needs is true. Since knowing by exact the number of victims of an earthquake is not possible with human measure (Amman, Dannenmann, & Vulliet 2006 p. 53). Amman, Dannenmann, & Vulliet 2006 posited that, “an emergency plan is a living document that requires considerable maintenance. ” (p. 55). The document should be able to adjust to changes in the environment, organizational structure and resources. Moreover, emergency plans have to disseminate to users and all the stakeholders in order to subject it to testing routinely.
During this period, information on the strengths and weaknesses of the plan is collected for improvements (Payne 1999, p. 111). When creating an emergency plan, it is also important to balance between tackling specific-in the area of jurisdiction and using generic planning (as documented in manuals and reference kits), when catering for completely unanticipated risks. The preparedness cycle The preparedness cycle comprises of the following processes; planning, organizing, training, exercising and evaluation of the emergency plan in order to make more improvements.
The National Incident Management System (NIMS) defines preparedness as “a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action in an effort to ensure effective coordination during incident response. ” (FEMA 2009, para. 1). This ‘preparedness cycle’ is part of a broader National Preparedness System that deals with prevention, responding to disaster, recovery from disaster, and mitigation against all hazards.
The Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supports preparedness by production and development of policies, planning and provision of resources and expertise on disaster management throughout the USA (FEMA 2009, para. 2). The nature of disasters makes it a prerogative for the Irish university sector to have a catalogue of planning tools so as to successfully create major emergency management programmes. In general, a planning and preparedness plan consist of the following features; • good leadership in major emergency response;
• The roles of individuals and teams in major emergency response should be well defined; • the ability to development, training and execute emergency programmes; • Resources and expertise ; • An appraisal of preparedness mechanism. When developing a panning and preparedness Plan, the management should make sure that every principal response agency has prepared individuals for emergencies. The Major Emergency plan sets out clearly the procedure to respond to occurrences within, or impacting on, its functional scope or areas that demand the declaration of a major emergency situation.
A good emergency management framework should cater for the development of both planning and preparedness aspects of major emergency management in the Irish university sector. In current best practices, panning and preparedness that has been well co-ordinated in a number of regions is adopted and carefully applied to the whole country (Ireland). When handling response, it is important to pan and prepare a framework that has a national outlook and at the same time regional level relevancy (35).
When building a best practice in emergency management framework, it is pertinent that the principal response agencies, within well defined regions, should work hand in hand to so as to mutually coordinate the inter-agency aspects of major emergency preparedness and management. In order to practically address preparedness the emergency management plan should adopt and implement “the incident command system” and grant how ICS will be used during an emergency. This should be done beforehand and specific roles and responsibilities must be defined and assigned to individuals or teams in the Irish university system.
Furthermore, the plan should clearly depict how coordination among all the stakeholders will occur and what roles and responsibilities that community partners will play in different types of disasters. For an the Irish university sector, it is recommended that memorandum of understanding (MOU) be developed. The MOU can then be integrated into the emergency management plan document to make it more resolute. A case study of a Coordinated Response: Stanford University Emergency Event Classification System
The Stanford University Campus Emergency Plan uses a three-level classification system. Level 1-consists of minor incidences which are quickly handled with internal resources or minimal aid. Level 2- major emergency that affects vital infrastructure, and may potentially endanger life, or mission critical operations. For this level, the emergency plan is initiated, and “the Situation Triage and Assessment Team (STAT)”, weighs the magnitude of the disaster and handles the emergency. If the emergency persists, level 3 responses are initiated.
Level 3 –this disaster involves the entire campus and the immediate community. At this level, the emergency plan is initiated, and the entire emergency management team is mobilized. Response Response occurs immediately before a disaster, during a disaster event and immediately after an emergency. Response includes various activities such as public warning, search and rescue, emergency medical assistance, extinguishing of fires and all other activities associated with support, as well as the co-ordination and management of these activities.
Response is the act of taking action to effectively control and resolve a crisis. Effective response to emergencies is strengthened through partnership and planning, which is done during the Prevention-Mitigation and Preparedness phases. In responding to a crisis, campus officials should initiate the disaster management plan. Responses to emergencies are varied-they depend on the severity, duration, magnitude, and intensity of the occurrences. This is the emergency management phase that is intensely covered media.
Importance of decision making in responding to emergencies For the response to be effective, informed decision-making and clear identification of lines of decision authority. Response may practically involve the following; • Activation of the Incident Command System (ICS); • Communication with the response team and other immediate community partners (as stipulated in the MOUs or other formal agreements); and • The establishment of an Emergency Operation Center (EOC).
Moreover, technology can be applied in activating communication- use of e-mail, text messages and cell phones among others). From the beginning of an emergency, all the stakeholders will be either jointly or separately involved in a decision-making process. In emergency management, decision making process consists of three stages; situation analysis; the prioritizing of objectives and identification of alternative ways of accomplishing them; and the development and implementation of response plans Case study, A Proactive Response: Texas Tech University
After the occurrence of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the university president of Texas Tech University (TTU), Jon Whitmore responded by sending letters to students and families assuring them that TTU had already created an emergency management plan to deal with a number of emergencies. He assured the campus community that safety and security on campus were high priorities issues. Recently he updated the TTU campus emergency notification system. The system utilizes outdoor sirens, e-mails, phone calls, text messaging, and Web