By Alissa Sheppard
Tornado, shooting on campus, dangerous ice storm, flashflood, an impending blizzard, these kind of emergencies only happen in your worst nightmare, but the college is ready to let students know about the awaiting danger.
Every year when students enroll they are asked to fill out information on how to be contacted in case of an emergency. This information must be updated as it changes.
Staff and faculty feel that the school would be well prepared. “We pay for a system called connect-ed,” said Sara Weinert, vice president for communication. This system is through blackboard, and only a select few staff members have access to the account. It is used for emergency purposes only.
Each member of staff has a login and password that they are able to access from their smart-phone or computer. Clicking on community outreach, the staff member is able to send out a mass message to all the students, faculty, and staff who are signed up. The message will be received as an email, text message, and on landline phone.
Weinert thinks the system is very effective. “We deliberately selected this system, we only use it for emergencies because we do not want it to lose its impact.” The system is tested periodically to make sure it is still working and to make sure the staffers do not forget how to use it. “It is funny when we do a test trial because all the phones start ringing off the hook in every office,” said Weinert.
One of the few staff members who has access to connect-ed system is David Helsel, director of safety and security. He has recently advised his staff to go through a community emergency response class. Only one security guard is on campus at one time, so they must be well prepared for any and everything. “A lot of people don’t know how to use a fire extinguisher, so getting training for emergency purposed will help in a lot of aspects,” said Helsel. He wants to be able to have the college sustain on its own if a disaster were to happen. Helsel feels like the classes will pay off for his staff and the others who decided to take it as well.
Offered the opportunity to take the classes, Sarah Hallinan, assistant dean of students, decided it would be of good use. “I am usually one of the first responders in incidents on campus, so with that responsibility I want to make sue that I am prepared,” said Hallinan. This is only week two for the session, but she feels that she has already learned a lot.
She thinks the best part of this class is that the teachers of each course are involved in emergency purposes in some way shape or form. Many of them work for the EMS or are firefighters, so they have hands on experience and are able to really give useful information. “We are able to build relationships with them, which will make it easier if we ever have an incident where they are to come to campus, we will kind of be on the same page,” said Hallinan. She wants to be able to use all the information she has learned in these courses in her all director training.
Hallinan says everything that she is learning is all well worth it. “I stay up at night thinking of what to do in disastrous situations, students don’t think have to really think about it, but I have to be ready for whatever, whenever, because disasters come in all forms.”
Alissa is a senior majoring in communication, you may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.