Case Study: Radford University Overcomes Emergency Management Hurdles

Officials at Radford University in Virginia have collaborated with other campuses and first responders, as well as city, county and state government officials to overcome its emergency preparedness obstacles.

In the past, both two-year and four-year higher education institutions have been considered communities within communities, with each maintaining governance, security, maintenance, human services and social support systems. In many instances, the community, region and institution coexist with minimal understanding of each other’s operational and emergency management structure or emergency planning activities. Radford University (RU) is one institution trying to meet the internal emergency management needs of the institution as well as become an emergency preparedness and response member of the community that surrounds it.

RU, Other Local Colleges Have Overlapping Vulnerabilities
RU is a mid-size comprehensive public university located in the city of Radford, Va., (population 16,500), 36 miles southwest of Roanoke, Va. Within a 10-mile radius of RU is Virginia Tech and New River Community College. These campuses represent an educational triangle that literally manifests itself as a large regional educational institution.

On any given day, these campuses may have a combined on-campus student population of 45,000, not including faculty, staff or visitors. As all of these individuals live, work and commute within host cities and the region, any emergency that happens within one institution, city or region usually impacts the others. Thus, the potential exists for an incident that would activate numerous first responders from surrounding agencies and strain emergency and support facilities in the region. Without a sound internal communications and awareness emergency plan within the institutions and parallel collaborative working relationships with the city and regional community partners, confusion can ensue.

Emergency Management Complexities Often Misunderstood
RU is not alone among higher education institutions that need to develop tangible responses and community awareness planning relative to strategic emergency management. Likewise, very few administrators, faculty or staff (including medical and security personnel) understand the complexities of campus emergency management planning and response. Further, regional or community emergency responders have limited understanding of a college’s administrative structure, specifically regarding communications and the chain of command.

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