Ranking Schools’ Strengths and Weaknesses in Emergency Management

FEMA’s annual tabletop exercise asked college officials to assess their emergency management capabilities.

Ranking Schools’ Strengths and Weaknesses in Emergency Management

Tabletop exercises are a great way to test your school's emergency management and response plans.

Earlier this year, FEMA and DHS gathered feedback from college officials who participated in their annual National Seminar and Tabletop Exercise for Institutions of Higher Education.

The event, which was focused on campus violence, took more than 325 participants through an active shooter scenario that unfolded while there were protests occurring on campus.

The tabletop exercise involved officials from 80 schools, 29 federal agencies and nine private associations from fields including law enforcement, higher education and emergency management.

During the exercise, college and university officials assessed their ability to respond to each issue that arose during the emergency. To get a sense for where schools needed to improve their emergency preparedness, FEMA and DHS handed out electronic polling devices that participants used to measure their capabilities.

The following assessment scale was used to identify general areas of strength and weakness in emergency management. Participants were also asked about their overall confidence in their institution’s capabilities in each area.

Because participants came from around the country and from colleges of all sizes, the results of the polls offer an imperfect way to take the temperature of the higher education emergency management industry as a whole.

Campus Safety has organized the poll results to rank the five biggest strengths and the six biggest weaknesses identified.

Click here to skip to the slideshow!

Each emergency management category was also labelled by DHS and FEMA as part of the fields of Prepare, Respond and Recover. Those three phases are based off FEMA’s five Mission Areas (Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response and Recovery), which are separated based on the capabilities needed to address an incident throughout its lifecycle.

Areas of strength were generally defined as emergency response categories where more than 30 percent of institutions reported having no challenges in addressing the issue AND the percentage of institutions reporting major challenges was less than 15 percent.

Areas for improvement were generally defined as emergency response categories where less than 30 percent of institutions reported having no challenges AND the participants reported that moderate to major challenges in that category would present “a clear and persistent disruption to an institution’s ability to prepare for, respond to, or recover from an incident of campus violence.”

You can view the rankings of emergency management strengths and weaknesses, along with respondents’ best practices, by clicking hereYou can also click on the categories below to skip to specific areas. The list below is not ranked by the polling results.

Categories of Emergency Management Strength

Emergency Management Categories with Room for Improvement

Now view the rankings!

About the Author


Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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