Campus Preparedness at U of T – Pan Am

I want to start out my blog today with a thank-you to you.  When I first started writing this blog I often thought (maybe worried) who would read – heck, would anyone read, my blog?  And what would I write about?  Well, here we are 17 months later and while I still ask those questions, they aren’t as prominent as what they were at first.  I’ve learned a lot since I began this writing quest.  I’ve also enjoyed it quite a bit.  I hope you have too.  Every now and then I take a look at the statistics WordPress maintains on my blog.  I’m very pleased to say that readership has increased steadily since we first started.  I can only hope that it will continue to grow.  To that end, I’d like to ask that after reading this posting you take a moment and “Leave A Comment” as to what you think about my blog(s), and let me know if there’s something specifically you’d like me to write about.

As I’m back on the campus of the Emergency Management Institute (EMI), I want to remind you that last October I was here and wrote several blogs about the EMI campus and some of the unique sites on and around the campus.  If you are so inclined, you might want to go back into the archives and read my previous” posts.

Yesterday, I shared with you about the Kent County Volunteer CERT guys that are in class.  Today, I’d like to take you “a little” south of Kent County Michigan to South Texas and specifically the Rio Grande Valley region.

University of Texas – Pan American

While I’m originally from Michigan, I also have very fond memories of living in South Texas in the Rio Grande Valley.  This week, when I found out there were three students from “the Valley” in our class I was excited and knew I wanted to talk with them and perhaps include them in my blog.

Rafael, Pablo, and Sayeed work for the University of Texas – Pan American in Edinburg, Texas.  Both Rafael and Pablo work in the Department of Public Safety.  Sayeed works in Facilities Management.

As part of the University of Texas, Pan American has emergency response plans in place for various incidents that may affect the university community.  Their greatest natural hazard they face is from hurricanes.  However, other hazards include high winds, flooding, and high heat, to name a few.  And of course, like many other communities, colleges, and businesses, there are a plethora of mad-made threats the university faces.

The university has an established emergency management team in place that will assemble at the time of an emergency and help direct response and recovery efforts.  This team is comprised of essential decision makers from throughout the university staff.  In addition to plans and dedicated teams, the university also has a campus-wide siren system and “Bronc Alert” which is a mass notification system that is used throughout the campus for notification of significant events and incidents.

Last year (2011) the University Chief of Police decided to expand emergency preparedness and include the entire campus community.  Today, the university enjoys positive working relationship beyond the university campus to include communities such as McAllen, Mission, Pharr, and of course the City of Edinburg.  In the past, Pan American has participated in a variety of community exercises that validated response capabilities.  Additionally, the university has mutual aid agreements with several neighboring communities.

The reason these gentlemen are in class this week is to better understand how the CERT program is utilized in communities and in campus environments and to return to the university with Best Practice solutions that could first be implemented within the university’s current emergency management (staff) structure, and then looking to the future, perhaps how CERT could be used within the student population.  Currently, there are various emergency preparedness initiatives (i.e. training) that are offered to students.

With our lessons learned from past disasters, I think the path forward the university is taking with guidance from these three CERT experts is a good one.  As I mentioned to them during our discussion, in order for the university to be truly prepared, it’s not enough to have plans in place and essential employees identified.  Strategically, all essential employees must be encouraged (motivated, compelled, required, forced) to practice emergency preparedness at home as well as at work.  After all, we can’t reasonably expect essential employees to return to work and help respond and recover if their families are in danger.  Good luck guys – and good luck Broncs!

So, until tomorrow stay safe and best wishes.  Please feel free to share my blog with others.


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