Rutgers Post-Superstorm Sandy Report Recommends Preparedness Improvements

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Last week Rutgers released a comprehensive report detailing the university’s response to Superstorm Sandy and recommending enhancements to emergency procedures.

The report recognizes that the storm was an extraordinary event that touched the life of nearly every New Jersey resident. Rutgers, like institutions throughout the state, examined its actions before, during and after the storm. A university task force – which included representatives of units throughout Rutgers – assessed the institution’s performance and made a series of recommendations to prepare for future emergencies.

Rutgers staff, faculty and students survived the storm with no on-campus injuries. In addition, the university successfully activated and hosted emergency shelters for more than 7,000 state, county and local residents – including Rutgers students – who were forced from their homes.

Rutgers hosted a regional food distribution site that supplied food and other provisions to New Jersey shore communities and neighboring states on the East Coast. Hundreds of staff and student volunteers pitched in where needed – from setting up cots to organizing Halloween festivities for displaced children housed in shelters on the Rutgers campus.

Here is a summary of selected major task force recommendations:

  1. Develop a university policy for business continuity planning: The policy will prescribe actions to preserve and protect assets and ensure the continuity of operations during emergencies.
  2. Identify locations that need emergency generators and re-architect RUNet: The Office of Information Technology will analyze how RUNet’s topology could be revised to leverage any deployed emergency generators to improve the responsiveness and resiliency of the university’s systems.
  3. Designate emergency work sites: Specific Rutgers building will be designated as emergency worksites where units can relocate their staffs during an emergency or major power outage. Business units will identify essential services, establish hardware and software requirements, and deploy business continuity plans in order to remain operational.
  4. Procure a Rutgers private IT cloud: Rutgers will identify essential services currently deployed in spaces without backup power and relocate them to resilient areas with redundant power.
  5. Improve IT infrastructure at Rutgers University: The Office of Information Technology will evaluate the RUNet Infrastructure to harden/secure the necessary pathways for essential resources that need to remain in fixed locations with access to the Internet. Hardening all RUnet pathways will require extensive funding.
  6. Identify mission critical research operations: Critical services, operations, research areas, and animal facilities must be both identified and prioritized to prevent future losses. These areas require a comprehensive business continuity plan and should be the first to be surveyed.
  7. Mandate adequate staffing of EOC: The Emergency Management Coordinator will ensure adequate staffing of the EOC during activations of the EOC to address unnecessary operational problems and reduce excessive burdens placed on those who are required to fill voids created by limited staff.
  8. Develop a university policy for emergency management: The policy will articulate the roles and responsibilities outlined in the Emergency Operations Plan for the Executive Leadership Group, Emergency Management Coordinator, Emergency Management Team and the Emergency Operations Center during times of crisis.
  9. Revise University Policy 60.3.16 Attendance During Adverse Weather Conditions: The policy will confirm that the safety of all employees is the highest priority while clarifying roles and responsibilities during weather and other emergency events.
  10. Test the cogeneration plant: The co-generation system will be tested from a “power failure status” and then restarted with careful monitoring of all facilities and systems during the 8-12 hours that such a test would require. This exercise would reveal the number of buildings we can put under load, power down and re-energize under normal conditions.
  11. Clarify communications procedures: An information center will be established to coordinate incoming and outgoing information, with a particular focus on emerging trends and rumor control. University Relations will designate a liaison for the EOC and the information center and develop a checklist for communications to ensure all important points are addressed and distributed quickly.

Most of the recommendations for improvement identified in the review have been implemented, including:

  • refining response protocols;
  • improving protection of information and communication infrastructure;
  • identifying alternative work sites for staff in the event of relocation; and
  • increasing social media links on the campus status page.

Other recommendations are in the process of being implemented, such as upgrading generator systems and increasing emergency supplies in residence halls and other locations on all campuses.

Read the full report.

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