Take steps to prepare for campus emergencies

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Sept. 8, 2015

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While Emory periodically conducts disaster simulations, there are steps everyone on campus can take now to be ready for possible emergencies. Emory Photo/Video

When students pack for college or faculty and staff get ready for a new academic year, the idea of consulting an emergency checklist may be the last thing on their minds.

But taking time to prepare for the unexpected — from updating contact information within Emory's Emergency Notification Program to simply knowing where to seek shelter on campus during a severe storm — can make all the difference in the face of an unforeseen disaster, says Sam Shartar, senior administrator for Emory's Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR).

September marks National Preparedness Month, scheduled each fall in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help communities across the nation be better equipped for the risks of accidents and disasters by creating preparedness plans.

"Don't Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today" is the theme of this year's campaign, with an emphasis on the need to communicate about emergency preparedness well in advance of threatening accidents or events, Shartar says. 

"Emergencies aren't just hypothetical situations, and preparedness is all about having the right information," cautions Shartar. "The more information you have, the more prepared you will be in the face of an emergency."

Emergency resources, only a click away

For faculty, staff and students at Emory, emergency information and resources are only a click away, handily compiled by CEPAR into two key documents: An online "Just In Time Guide" to campus emergencies and the Emory University Preparedness Checklist.

For everyone on campus, the start of a new academic year is a great time to seek out and become familiar with those resources, Shartar says.

The preparedness checklist provides directions for enrolling or updating emergency contact information in order to receive alerts in the face of severe weather, industrial accidents or law enforcement events.

It also offers:

  • Basic safety information and reminders, such as a prompt to program phone numbers for Emory or Oxford College campus police departments — and adding an "In Case of Emergency" (ICE) number — into your personal mobile phone.
  • Suggestions for establishing a simple emergency communication plan, so that family and friends have an agreed-upon way to make contact during a campus or regional emergency.
  • Prompts for knowing how to exit buildings if a primary pathway is blocked and where to seek shelter during severe weather.
  • A reminder to secure an annual flu shot.
  • Handy contact information for campus emergency services, including health and counseling services, and the Emory Faculty Staff Assistance Program.

To stay abreast of the latest campus emergency notifications, in addition to email alerts you can also receive personal text alerts by registering current contact information in Emory's Emergency Notification Program.

Shartar suggests programming two "short codes" — 226787 and 678283 — into your list of cellphone contacts, along with unique ringtones, to quickly and easily identify an Emory emergency alert.

"In the event of emergencies, when you're trying to let others know that you're okay, we suggest texting instead of talking," Shartar adds. "Phone calls take up a lot of bandwidth, whereas texting takes up much less bandwidth and still accomplishes the task."

Talk about it, make a plan now

Simply knowing where to turn well in advance of an emergency is key.

Shartar suggests taking time to check out CEPAR's online "Just in Time" guide well before it is needed. The wide-ranging resource offers guidance for what to do in the face of a variety of emergencies, from power failures, water and gas leaks, and medical emergencies to chemical spills or laboratory accidents, or severe weather and weather-related campus closures.

"It will get you thinking about what you could anticipate in the event of a tornado, a law enforcement event, or even what to do in winter weather to protect yourself from snow and ice," Shartar explains.

For those who work on campus, being prepared for emergencies can also include taking steps to:

  • Talk with colleagues about basic office protocols, such as knowing where to take refuge during a tornado warning or an active shooter incident.
  • Be cautious about letting people into a locked building unless they've been properly identified.
  • Know where to call if you note suspicious behavior in the workplace.
  • Schedule a Crime Risk Prevention Workshop with the Emory Crime Prevention Unit.
  • Volunteer to take a class in first aid or CPR.
  • Know where the nearest Automated External Defibrillator is in your building and learn how to use one.

For more information, visit the www.emergency.emory.edu.