Are Your Disaster Plans Complete?

Having an appropriate crisis plan is nothing short of a life and death matter for a campus. Unfortunately, many organizations do not have plans in accordance with best practice planning models. Additionally, their plans often don’t address all relevant hazards.

While most schools, hospitals and institutions of higher learning today have plans vastly superior to those of five or 10 years ago, few have policies that address all four phases of emergency management in specific, written and detailed form. A plan that does not contain all four of the following sections is incomplete.

  • Prevention and mitigation: This section includes a compilation of all measures in place to prevent accidents, fires and criminal acts. It also includes measures designed to mitigate those situations that either cannot be prevented (such as a tornado) or occur in spite of prevention efforts.

  • Preparedness: The preparedness section specifically guides the actions of staff during a crisis or disaster. Preparedness efforts also include stockpiling of disaster supplies, training of all full- and part-time employees and the coordination of a progressive exercise program that involves drills appropriate for local hazards.

    Those drills might include lockdown, incident command protocols, emergency warning and notification, shelter in place, reverse evacuation, severe weather, earthquake, and triage capability for mass casualty incidents. Other exercises could include tabletop exercises, functional exercises and full-scale exercises. Training should also be documented.

  • Response: The response plan is the formal written plan that enables the recorder from the crisis response team to log critical functions from the emergency operations plan to ensure they are not missed by staff functioning under extreme stress. This plan also provides a system for documenting who carried out crucial steps and when they were performed.

    Additionally, the response plan outlines the incident command system under the National Incident Command System model in written form.

  • Recovery: The first component of this plan outlines crucial functions like death notification, the crisis recovery model that will be used and the organization’s involvement in memorials. The second component is the business continuity plan, which spells out how operations of the institution will be resumed.

When developing all of these sections, it is important that decision-makers at the campus and local levels participate and review the final draft. On the hospital, college or school level, those departments would include risk management, campus police, food services, student services, legal, finance, public information and student government.

An internationally recognized authority on campus safety and the author of 19 books on the topic, Michael Dorn is the senior public safety and emergency management analyst for Jane’s Consultancy. Dorn, a member of the Campus Safety Advisory Council, works with a team of campus safety experts to make campuses safer around the globe through Jane’s offices in nine countries. He can be reached at

For the complete version of this article, please refer to the March/April 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine.

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About the Author


Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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