Edited Version of March 15, 2000 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Forum Group Discussion

"Second Annual Student Day"

Dr. Wayne Blanchard

Chad Johnston
Vice President
International Emergency Management Student Association

Amy Sebring, Moderator
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the March 15, 2000 online Virtual Forum presentation is available on the EIIP Virtual Forum (http://www.emforum.org). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each were deleted but content of discussions, questions, and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the speakers to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to our Second Annual Student Day in the Virtual Forum! This is Spring Break for many students, so we are not sure how many are near a computer. If you are a student or an alum, would you please take this opportunity to go ahead and enter your school at this time? Just pop it in.

Peter Picanso ARC LA: Santa Monica College.

J.P. DeMeritt: I'm from University of Houston - Clear Lake.

Chad Johnston: University of North Texas, IEMSA.

Jennifer Suter: University of North Texas (alum).

Cam King: Saskatchewan. Teachers College and UND (some courses).

Jeff Hartle ATU: Arkansas Tech University, IEMSA Chapter 2 Sponsor.

Cindy Palmer: University of Central Florida.

Terry Storer: Southern Illinois-Carbondale '71.

Chad Johnston: Good to see you, Jeff.

Freddie Watt: University of North Texas (alum).

Billy Kelley: Prairie View A&M University, La Verne University, National University.

Rob Rinehart: Florida State University.

Isabel McCurdy: University of Victoria and Douglas College, British Columbia, Canada (alum).

Amy Sebring: Thanks, we are happy to have you with us. We welcome all of you, and for any first-timers, we hope you will join us in the future as your schedule permits. Please note that if a blue URL appears and you click on it, the referenced page will load in your browser. You will need to bring the chat window back to the top, and for subsequent URL's, you may need to bring your browser window back to the top.

The background page is posted at <http://www.emforum.org/vforum/000315.htm>.

Here you will find a few related links, and a transcript of today's session will be posted there, or may be accessed from our Transcripts Quick Pick link on our home page. You will also find some discussion questions on today's topic, "How Prepared is Your College?" Please keep them handy.

Here is our order of business today: we will have a few words from Dr. Wayne Blanchard, a few words from Chad Johnston, then our group discussion, then some fun with a game or two.


To start us off, we are pleased to welcome back Wayne Blanchard, whom many of you have the privilege of knowing. For those that have not met him before, Dr. Blanchard is the manager of FEMA's Higher Education Project. Thank you for joining us today, Wayne.


Wayne Blanchard: You are welcome. Welcome to today's Spring Break Student Day. I hope that students and faculty involved in hazard, disaster and emergency management programs will use this opportunity to share with us today some of their concerns and issues.

Rapid growth and progress is taking place in the realm of hazard, disaster and emergency management higher education. Today there are, to our knowledge, only three States without an emergency management or related higher education program - Rhode Island, Montana and Hawaii. One of our concerns with this rapid growth is that many programs seem to be oriented to disaster response and operations.

We are promoting a new philosophical orientation to emergency management --- one that is centered first and foremost on what we call "Building Disaster Resilient Communities." Such an approach puts mitigation and preparedness in the forefront and prompts an expansion of an emergency manager's universe to place more emphasis on such issues as community economic development and smart growth, environmental protection, land use regulations and management, and building codes.

This goes for colleges and universities as well --- while it is very important for colleges and universities to be offering hazard, disaster and emergency management courses --- it is also very important for them to really "walk the talk" as well. That is to make their colleges and universities safer and more resilient to hazards, and to network with the communities in which they reside in doing so.

This is where the "links" that have been prepared for today's session can be used as models for others to follow and I trust that there are students and faculty out there today who will begin to "push" administrators along this path.

Changing subjects, and using this opportunity to take a commercial break, I would like to note that FEMA's Emergency Management Institute will take on three interns this summer from colleges or universities that offer an emergency management program. These internships are negotiated with a student and his or her advisor and can last roughly from 5 to 8 weeks. We will reimburse for certain travel expenses to get to EMI and then back after the internship. And, we will provide, at no cost, a dorm room on campus. We do not provide a salary or stipend, and the student is responsible for all meal and other expenses.

Our preference is to have interns here a couple weeks prior to our Summer EM HiEd Conference -- June 28-29. We would like any interns we have here during this timeframe to help prepare for the conference, participate in the conference, and then participate in the preparation of a conference report after the conference. Any interested students can get additional information from me or have a teacher get in touch.

Now, with the commercial over, allow me to again thank all of you for coming to this site today -- keep up all the really great work that is going on "out there."

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much, Wayne; and thank you for your leadership in this area. Next we are pleased to introduce Chad Johnston, emergency management student at the University of North Texas, and Vice President of IEMSA, the International Emergency Management Student Association.

Amy Sebring: Glad you could be here, Chad.

Chad Johnston: Hello. Thank you Amy. We are very excited about telling people about the International Emergency Management Student Association (IEMSA). We have been growing within the last year and we are excited about the opportunities IEMSA can offer students and the profession.

First, I would like to thank EIIP for the opportunity to come here and spread the word of IEMSA. They have proven to be a great asset to our organization.

Students at the Emergency Administration and Planning Program at the University of North Texas established IEMSA several years ago. Since then, we have been working to expand IEMSA, and reach out to other schools who offer programs in Emergency Management.

IEMSA has connected students with professionals in the public and private sector, informing them of current jobs and other important information in the field. We have also helped students, alumni, and other professionals socialize and get to know one another by forming and sponsoring annual events.

IEMSA has served as an interface with volunteer agencies, such as the Red Cross, by setting up workshops to certify students who want to serve as volunteers.

We have seen the benefits IEMSA has given the students at UNT. This is why we decided a year ago to expand the organization by reaching out to other schools with similar programs, and to make IEMSA truly international. We have been working to help start new chapters and link Emergency Management students.

Since then we have seen a remarkable reaction and interest of students around the nation. Arkansas Tech University (ATU), joined IEMSA last fall, and Central Missouri State University (CMSU) joined as an IEMSA Chapter just last month! Both schools are eager to help other schools join in, just as they did.

Through meetings and information exchange, we hope to form better relationships with other students so we can gain knowledge about other programs and projects students are working on.

We are currently working to schedule and International Chapter Conference, where all the chapters, students, and anyone interested in Emergency Management can meet and discuss the future of IEMSA.

As IEMSA develops new chapters and partnerships with professional organizations, it is becoming a great resource for students in Emergency Management. By linking students, the opportunities are endless. This is why the current members of IEMSA would like to invite all students and programs around the world to join us in uniting the students of Emergency Management. If you would like more information on IEMSA, email us at <[email protected]>. We are currently constructing a new web-site, and if you want to know when it is completed, send us and email and we will respond with the new address upon completion. Thank you for joining us today.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much, Chad. Now we will get into our discussion. If you have not done this before, how we handle it is thusly. Please look ahead on the background page to the next question. If you have a response, go ahead and prepare it, that is, type it in, but do not hit send until we are ready for it.


For our regulars, we will not be using the question marks today.

First, some background. We have been aware that U.S. Fire Administration has taken a particular interest in campus fire safety. There is a related link on the background page. We were also aware that FEMA has a Disaster Resistant Universities initiative under its Project Impact program, but we were not able to find out much about it.

There must be millions of students, either resident or on campus during the day, across the country; however, until we have a major disaster directly impacting a campus, we expect that not as much attention will be drawn to this issue, as it warrants.

Shouldn't we ensure necessary plans, training, channels of communication are set up before that happens?

Now just because such planning is not reflected on a Web site somewhere does not mean an effective plan is not in place. However, if there is no preparedness information on a college or university Web site in this day and age, how effectively is the word getting out?

We certainly did not research every possible campus; however, we did not find much out there. Three programs we did find in particular are linked on the background page.

Berkeley seems to have the best overall program, as it includes not only preparedness information, but also has a CERT type program, a mitigation program, and they are holding an earthquake exercise during May. At least judging from the info on their site. A copy of their plan is posted at


The University of Minnesota does not have a copy of their plan posted yet, but they expect to. This institution also places emphasis on Continuity of Operations for each department.

We did not find any specific planning guides for campuses. The only other organization we were referred to was the National Safety Council's Campus Safety Division. Again, the link is on the background page. However, in selecting their Fire & Life Safety link, it is presently not accessible. Perhaps it will be available in the future.

The final link is to an organization called College Parents of America, who has student safety as part of their mission and who issued a press release during February, endorsing legislation to provide federal funding for sprinkler systems. The press release is at <http://www.collegeparents.org/Breaking_News.htm>.

So that was basically all I was able to find on the Web. It was our hope that by raising the question here today, that students in emergency management might begin in their own backyard, and at least determine what exists for their own campuses.

For any educators with us, this might be a good practicum or service project. However, you might want to discuss it with your administrators first!

So, thank you for your patience and let's get on with our questions. If you know of any other best practices in this area we would be glad to hear about them.

[Group Discussion]

Question # 1:

Why does a college/university campus need disaster planning? Or does it?


Chad Johnston: Colleges are essentially small communities

J.P. DeMeritt: Does a college or university need disaster planning? The better question, I think, is what extent of disaster planning we need. Universities present all the challenges I can think of: highly transient populations, hazardous materials and operations -- you name it! And we're often operating in dense, urban core environments with multiple disaster hazards.

Avagene Moore: The planning necessary won't be done by anyone else. It is the right thing to do as a vital part of the community with a large number of people to prepare for.

Amy Sebring: I suspect that there is an issue of jurisdiction as well. A "town and gown" type attitude that may prevent close coordination?

Chad Johnston: Many colleges handle preparedness through their risk management department.

Amy Sebring: Yes, so I found Chad, and also found they have quite a variety of other jobs as well!

Jeff Hartle ATU: Often campuses operate under different laws than the surrounding community.

Chad Johnston: That they do.

J.P. DeMeritt: The jurisdiction question is particularly important. UHCL sits astride the Houston/Pasadena boundary, and has its own police force.

Amy Sebring: Let's go on to our next question. We will have to move through these rather quickly.

Question # 2:

Amy Sebring: Is a written disaster "policy" sufficient? Whose job is it to implement any such policy requirement? Or to at least verify that it has in fact been implemented?


Rick Tobin: After a year of operating the only Web site in the world totally dedicated to Campus emergency planning and safety, I am convinced the greater percentage of campuses have paper plans with little behind them. I'd say a lot more, but I'm still pretty frustrated by the political blockages there are for a national initiative in this area.

Amy Sebring: I had seen some policy examples, but I wonder who if anyone is following up!

Avagene Moore: Policy is not enough. Must be actual planning done with appropriate involvement and awareness of all staff and students.

Chad Johnston: Maybe it could be better handled by the campus DPS.

Amy Sebring: The next three questions ask you to consider some of the special circumstances that may be found on campuses.

Question # 3:

What are some unique circumstances that should be addressed for the mitigation phase? For example, what are some of the particular vulnerabilities?


David Crews: The governing bodies on the campus have the ultimate policy responsibility. Therefore the President and Board must be involved in the process because they have the authority to commit the resources.

Amy Sebring: Right, David, just like our Mayor?

David Crews: A university is a mirror of representative government at the local, state and federal levels.

Amy Sebring: Any response to 3? Buildings e.g.?

Avagene Moore: Ability of buildings and dorms to withstand site hazards. Some of the buildings are very old and need to be retrofitted, if not replaced for safety's sake.

Amy Sebring: High density?

Peter Picanso ARC LA: In the case of community colleges you have an extra layer of authority with the city as well as the college.

Rick Tobin: The fact is, there is such a transient population at campuses, and such skewed perspective within higher education, that emergency planning almost always takes a back seat - just like local government - hmm? Till someone important gets hurt.

Amy Sebring: Special needs students?

Derri Hanson: The administration needs to view Emergency Management as a part of doing good business, not as a waste of time and money!

Chad Johnston: And county authorities, Peter.

Amy Sebring: Yes, there is no reason to expect academia to be any different from the rest of the world. However, sometimes I think they may be more isolated.

Rick Tobin: If you go onto most campuses and do even an initial ADA review people start sweating, it's not pretty.

Amy Sebring: Ok, moving on.

Question # 4:

What are some of the unique circumstances that should be addressed for the preparedness/ response phase?


Chad Johnston: Coordination with city, NGO's, etc.

Amy Sebring: Always a challenge in the best of times. For example, disseminating warnings? Responding to parent inquiries? Sheltering issues?

Avagene Moore: Must have the right liaison with offsite resources and emergency services providers.

Chad Johnston: Liaison, good point.

Rick Tobin: Probably the biggest problem is appropriate warning, evacuation and head counts. Very tough to be consistent over the years without strong programs.

Jeff Hartle ATU: Universities should determine what resources they can offer to local agencies instead of simply being a drain on the responders.

Question # 5:

What are some of the unique circumstances that should be addressed for the recovery phase?


J.P. DeMeritt: Student academics. If we've just had a tornado go through student housing, what do we do with classes? Do we expect students to pick up and carry on with school just because the University's able to conduct classes?

Derri Hanson: Just getting people out of the buildings for drills can be a major feat.

David McEntire: Getting the University up and running before poor instructors become even poorer!

Amy Sebring: Continuity of operations, how about damage assessment and preparing a request for public assistance, if the institution qualifies?

Rick Tobin: I just wrote a recovery plan for a state university. Even they (as good as they are) did not get the idea that you need a complete switch of organizational perspective and focus when you go into recovery. You don't just throw the EOC staff into Recovery operations. Big problem.

Question # 6:

Should emergency procedures be routinely included during orientation?


David Crews: Strategic Planning is key to having an EM program on campus. Universities need EM plans like those found in other government levels.

Amy Sebring: Is that done now?

David McEntire: In all seriousness, a major problem is that the university officials will probably not be aware of the recovery programs and their requirements. Therefore, education is key for preparation for recovery.

Avagene Moore: I believe so. Each staff person and student needs to know what the procedures are for wherever s/he is during any given part of the day.

Amy Sebring: Any students here get any procedures in orientation?

J.P. DeMeritt: I'm concerned with the human effects of disasters on staff, faculty, and students. Yes! Including disaster procedures in orientations should be considered essential!

Avagene Moore: But is it done anywhere?

Rick Tobin: Yes, but only the highlights relevant to the audience. It is better to have hot sheets or fact sheets to key staff about every two or three months to keep them fresh. For students, ughh, an ever present conundrum. Very tough to get through the noise, and to a group that believes they are immortal.

Chad Johnston: I entered too long ago. I don't recall.

Jeff Hartle ATU: Students typically get information about fire/security issues in dorms, but not in classroom buildings.

Amy Sebring: We have heard exercises or drills mentioned.

Question # 7:

Should emergency exercises be conducted annually? Every two years perhaps?


Isabel McCurdy: When I was at the University of Victoria, BC, Canada, nothing was done.

J.P. DeMeritt: Not to my knowledge. For the last two semesters, I've served as a student orientation leader, and my university hasn't included disaster procedures.

Peter Picanso ARC LA: One aspect of campus operations is that they are frequently used as shelters after a local emergency and that disrupts the normal operation of the school.

Pat Kelley: You must remember that visitors, clients, and vendors must also know what those emergency procedures are.

Derri Hanson: Bi-annually at least - one table top and one full.

Terry Storer: SIU mentions the ERG on the web during new student introductions.

Rick Tobin: Annual. Absolutely no less often.

Avagene Moore: Annually.

Question # 8:

Now our students today are planning to enter this field in some way, but how about other students? Could college campuses provide an opportunity to educate our citizens for disaster awareness?


Rick Tobin: And integrated with the surrounding community.

Avagene Moore: Definitely, Rick.

Amy Sebring: This is possibly a rhetorical question. It seems to me that if students are exposed through participation in a CERT team or an exercise, they will at least learn something about it.

Chad Johnston: IEMSA has been known to give talks at elementary schools.

J.P. DeMeritt: Certainly! Disaster education -- not only to public policy leaders, but to the public at large -- should be a core function of any university's outreach to the community.

Rick Tobin: At my Web site I promoted the idea that every college student have a minimum course on personal safety (first aid, CPR, CERT, and emergency preparedness for the family) before they could graduate. Got a lot of flack from educators over that.

Amy Sebring: Makes sense to me, Rick.

Isabel McCurdy: Well sure, Amy, if campus are educated themselves.

Peter Picanso ARC LA: The schools should be a model for the surrounding communities, not the other way around.

Amy Sebring: Good point also, Peter.

Avagene Moore: I think it would be nice for the colleges with EM programs to make awareness part of the year's activities, using the EM students.

Chad Johnston: At UNT, We have Disaster Day where students get info on what to do.

Pat Kelley: Remember to use the resources you have on campus, i.e. have a drama department write and perform a play on the procedures. The idea is to make learning interesting.

Question # 9:

What is needed in terms of planning guidance, and who should provide it?


J.P. DeMeritt: Perhaps we're asking the wrong institutions to conduct disaster education. Perhaps we need to hit people at the primary education level.

Amy Sebring: We are taking that for granted, J.P.

Richard Choularton: Emergency management students could be assigned projects as part of their course work, where they carry out community awareness projects or other EM preparedness activities.

Pat Kelley: Ditto on Richard.

Peter Picanso ARC LA: Schools that don't use their EM students are wasting a valuable resource as well as a valuable learning tool.

Amy Sebring: Re: question 9, I would like to see at least one good article on the topic.

Avagene Moore: Re: #9 - why not use this as an opportunity to get local program staff and state staff involved with schools?

Rick Tobin: I've believed that there should be a ‘best practices’ menu available, online, for all levels of education. That's what I was shooting for. There is no one approach that works for everyone. Campuses should be able to pick and choose useable approaches that work for them.

Pat Kelley: Ditto on Richard's comment. However, work from the EM students should be in some type of class effort.

Derri Hanson: J.P., FEMA has a great program for that age group.

Final Question # 10:

If you were to give your campus a grade for disaster planning, what would it be? If you don't want to submit an answer that's fine, or if you don't know the answer, please think about how you would go about finding out.


David Crews: Again you need an EM Plan before you man, train, equip and obtain readiness against know risks and threats! Authority to plan is derived from the University governing body.

Pat Kelley: Remember that the NFPA 1600 standard has now been adopted for voluntary use. This is a good place to start. Experience will follow.

Amy Sebring: Any final comments on this topic before we move on to some fun?

Rick Tobin: It takes a very, very long time to get even one organization's attention. I marketed a recent client for 9 years before I could help them with their recovery plan. It's a long haul project if you take it on.

J.P. DeMeritt: Derri, I'm sure that the program is good, but is it being delivered? Are parents and educators insisting their kids get it? If not, it may not be doing anything for us.

Peter Picanso ARC LA: Don't forget about the graying of the college population. There are more over 40 students in college now than ever before.

Derri Hanson: We should get other groups educated such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and church youth groups.

Richard Choularton: In line with Derri's comment, the FEMA higher education project could take a lead role in preparing university level guidance, similar to what the American Red Cross has done for High School teachers.

Avagene Moore: Excellent point, JP. Teachers don't want to take on more material to teach as a rule.

Rick Tobin: I'll tell you the biggest gap, community and technical colleges. Unbelievable areas of risk.

Amy Sebring: I repeat that I think one well-researched article could do a lot and that would not take a lifetime. Perhaps one of you students who go on to advanced post-graduate programs might think about that for a thesis.

Derri Hanson: It's our job to educate the community about the programs that are available for all ages.

Terry Storer: Comment: SIU-C uses an online ERG. View it at <http://disaster.dps.siu.edu>.

["Who Wants to be a Millionaire" Game]

Amy Sebring: Ok, thank you very much for your participation and good comments. We are going to go on to our game now, and I hope you will enjoy it. It has nothing to do with emergency management. This will be a slightly modified version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." The next few links are for future reference, and if you are interested in checking these out, they will be in the transcript.

For the official site see <http://www.abc.go.com/primetime/millionaire/mill_home.html>.

For an unofficial online practice game, <see http://www.mindfun.com/millionaire/>.

For a slightly offbeat Shockwave game called Smash Regis, see <http://www.smashregis.com/> ! (My personal favorite!)

I need 3 volunteer contestants, and would like to have one student, one educator and one practitioner. We are going to play this game in the form of an elimination and see how far we get. The rest of you are on the team you belong to. If you do not fit in one of these categories, then please just pick one. Team members may assist their team Captain at any time, and you can do it via private message to that individual. To send a private message, just double click on user name.

Chad Johnston: I'll play.

Amy Sebring: Chad is for the students.

Amy Sebring: Other volunteers? I need an educator and a practitioner.

Rick Tobin: I'm up for it.

Amy Sebring: Ok, Rick is in the practitioner category?

Rick Tobin: Ok.

Amy Sebring: Ok, Peter, anyone, for a miscellaneous third team?

Peter Picanso ARC LA: I'll take the miscellaneous category.

Amy Sebring: Ok Peter, thank you. If you are not a student, or not a practitioner, you are on Peter's team.

First, our introductory screen. If you have a .wav player configured properly, then you should get some audio when you click on one of the images. (Same for both images.)


Avagene will serve as judge. In case you do not realize, we do not have any real money prizes. This is just for fun. We are also going to be pretty quick on the time to answer. We will play the first round until everyone has been eliminated, then if we have enough time and interest, we can do a second round. Here we go.

[Trivia game ensued.]

Amy Sebring: Thank you all for joining us today and please check us out in the future.

Isabel McCurdy: Most excellent, game, thanks !!

Amy Sebring: Good luck to all the students and keep up the good work!

David Crews: Bye all!

Avagene Moore: //thumbsup Good session. Fun and informative.

Rick Tobin: That's my final answer. Thanks for the session.