College Planning & Management

OCT 2012

College Planning & Management is the information resource for professionals serving the college and university market. Covering facilities, security, technology and business.

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Safety & Security PROTECTING CAMPUS RESOURCES Broaden Your Knowledge Base Check for potentially deadly presumptions about requests for emergency assistance. BY MICHAEL DORN C ONDUCTING ONE-ON-ONE assessment interviews to evaluate in- dividual decision-making under simu- lated crisis situations is revealing. Our analysts have conducted more than 1,700 such simula- tions with more than 500 campus employees across the country in the past couple of years and the results have been nothing short of startling. For example, during a recent assessment project for a large urban public school system that has completed a Readiness Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grant, we found a fail rate of more than 80 percent for the action step of lockdown. This means that school employees failed to implement a lockdown for eight out of 10 scenarios that require one. In another situation we encountered two building administrators accidently ordering lockdowns for their schools when posed with a scenario where they were outside of their schools and saw a tornado headed right for their schools. Under the relatively minor stress of the simula- tions, they inadvertently gave the wrong code for the scenario they were facing. This also demonstrates, of course, the danger of using codes for campus crisis planning. This type of mistake could eas- ily result in mass casualty losses. Keeping in mind that the employees involved in these assess- ments typically participate in seven to 10 emergency drills per year and have formal emergency preparedness training, these fi ndings are signifi cant. The results in these assessments cor- relate to the forensic evaluations in our expert witness work for campus shootings and other crisis situations where catastrophic plan failure occurs. Widen the Training Focus For example, one thing we have noticed in campus shoot- ing cases and in the evaluation projects is that the more exclu- sively campus employees focus on responding to active shooter situations the worse they perform for almost any type of event, including an actual active shooter situation. For example, if the primary focus of planning, training, and drills is on active shooter situations, campus employees do not perform as well as they do if they are required to train and drill regularly for a wide range of crisis scenarios. This matches the research on how the human brain works under life-or-death stress. Dr. Gary Klein is a leading researcher in this fi eld and has found that people can perform exceptionally well under life-or-death stress more often if they have a wide range of 14 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / OCTOBER 2012 experience in crisis decision-making. Klein refers to what he calls a "base of knowledge." When campus offi cials dedicate too much of their available staff development and crisis simulations to any one type of scenario, the base of knowledge will not be as broad. One of the things we have found in every assessment project we have conducted to date is that the personnel who have oversight for campus emergency management have held some potentially dangerous assumptions about how their people will perform under stress. This is true even in organizations on the high end of plan development and progressive exercise approaches. Typically, the assumptions relate to how effectively and how rapidly decisions will be made by the fi rst employee to become aware of a crisis and whom they will then fi rst notify of the danger. Train to Ensure the Best First Response We fi nd that the decisions made by rank-and-fi le employees are frequently very different from what is expected of them. For example, while it may be most effective and faster for campus po- lice offi cers to be notifi ed directly, the majority of employees may decide to call 911 instead of campus police. In these situations, a delay of several minutes or more in response time can result, which could easily cause serious injury or death. For example, campus police may have the ability to immediately announce the need for emergency actions such as lockdown, reverse evacua- tion, severe weather sheltering, etc., but will not fi nd out about the danger for several minutes, missing the critical window of time in which to save human life if the call goes directly to 911 and is not transferred to their agency. The most reliable ways to identify and correct these types of deadly gaps is to conduct one-on-one crisis simulations in a struc- tured fashion and/or to conduct forensic evaluation of instances where emergency responders are summoned to try to determine how long it took for the decisions and notifi cations to take place. Remembering that the most detailed and elaborate emergency preparedness measures can be dramatically compromised if the fi rst 30 seconds of the event are not handled properly indicates that we should have no presumptions about what will happen during this crucial window of time. CPM Michael Dorn serves as the executive director for Safe Havens International, Inc., an IRS-approved, nonprofi t safety center. He has authored and co-authored more than 20 books on campus safety. He can be reached through the Safe Havens website at www.safehavensinternational.org. WWW.PLANNING4EDUCATION.COM

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