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EMERGENCY RESPONSE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

 

6/21/07 -  RHV

 

Introduction

 

Even before recent catastrophic events in the nation's schools, The University of Chicago was active in planning for effective ways to respond to emergencies of many types. At the present time this planning is a work in progress and likely will continue to be so as needs and technologies change. An Emergency Management Plan has been developed which creates response teams, categorizes the types of emergencies, and outlines the steps to be taken in the event of an emergency.

 

Emergency Management Plan

 

The Emergency Management Plan is a detailed document which defines and describes the following: Definitions of emergency-types, priorities, who 's involved, establishment of primary and backup Emergency Operations Centers.

 

The Plan

 

Inherent within the plan is the necessary structure at the University to declare an emergency and to deal with it as effectively as possible under the circumstances. An Emergency Director, a senior official of the University, is appointed, and along with an alternate, is the main contact point for the declaration, categorization, and activation of the plan. The Emergency Director works closely with a Policy Group, consisting of the most senior members of the administration, and the Emergency Management Group consisting of Senior Administrators, Division Directors, Deans, Directors, senior officials from the University of Chicago Hospitals, and the University Police. In addition, an Emergency Site Operations Group, consisting of an Incident Commander and staff members more closely associated geographically with the location of the emergency, provide front-line technical coordination of necessary on-campus responses.  A necessary part of the plan is the establishment of an Emergency Operations Center, with several alternate sites depending upon the location or extent of the emergency itself. These sites are provisioned to provide expanded communications capabilities for use by the teams.  An Emergency and Disaster Planning Team meets regularly to review technical aspects of the plan and to recommend more effective methods of communication/notification.

 

Emergency Types

 

Emergencies are classified into three basic types. They are:

Type One

A Type One event or emergency is one that affects only one department or division of the University. It is assumed that Type One  events can be handled by the affected department working in conjunction with the University Police and Safety Office. Typical of Type One events would be small, containable fires, or chemical spills.

Type Two

Type Two events are those that affect multiple departments or divisions of the University. These events, at the discretion of the Emergency Director, may convene portions or all of the Policy Group and the Emergency Management Group. Typical of Type Two events would be major fires, significant electrical outages, severe snowstorms and/or major windstorms.

Type Three

Events of this type are catastrophic in scale, affecting not only the University but the surrounding community as well. At the discretion of the Emergency Director, a full-scale response may be launched, utilizing the full extent of the University's capabilities, in conjunction with municipal emergency facilities. Substantial civil disturbances, tornadoes, or acts of war would be examples of this type.

 

Notification

 

Based on the severity and affected constituency of the event, alerting or notification of the occurrence of the event will be initiated.  Alerting will comprise a variety of methods based on availability including fire alarms, sirens, runners, PA systems, Hotlines, web pages, radio/TV announcements, electronic message boards, TV scrolls, Reverse 911, and established Event Notification Systems utilizing voice, pagers, SMS, email, etc.

 

cAlert

 

The University recently implemented an Emergency Notification System titled cAlert. This system utilizes a commercial product from MIR3. It enables authorized University officials to reach members of the University community through mechanisms  which are in addition to normal University email and telephones. This system can transmit short notifications, rapidly, by email to any outside email address, by text message to a cell phone or hand-held device, by fax, or by voice message to an off-campus telephone or cell-phone. Participants must enroll in this system's database by logging in to a web page with a network ID and password. The participant may then list up to 10 contacts. At the moment participation is optional. However, plans are being made to seed the alert database with information from student/personnel records.

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