Emergency Planning for Colleges, Universities and Businesses in a COVID World

Keeping Universities, Schools, and Businesses free from COVID-19 requires diligence, and a proper plan.

School administrators and business owners need to plan and prepare for reopening or keeping schools and businesses open. Regardless of the number of current cases in a community, there should be a plan in place to protect staff and students from the spread of COVID-19.

Though many Universities and College have initiated virtual-only learning options, activities, and events, there are times where maintain proper safety is still a concern. The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in non-residential (i.e., off-campus housing) and residential (i.e., on-campus housing) settings is still a concern.

And as businesses continue to remain open, and states allowing more people into these establishments, the risk of acquiring and or spreading the virus remains high.

In either environment, it makes sense to follow CDC guidelines of mask wearing, social distancing, and proper hand hygiene. Until there is a vaccine available for all, and even when one is readily available, now is the perfect time to either review and update or get started on a more formal Emergency Plan. With this in place, Universities, Colleges, and Business can mitigate the risk of spreading COVID and keep students, faculty, and staff safe.

The Planning Process

Effective emergency management planning and development is not done alone. The make an effective plan, it is critical to work with community partners including first responders (e.g., law enforcement officers, fire officials, EMS personnel), emergency managers, public health officials, and mental health officials as well as with other local governmental officials and community organizations.

There are many ways to develop an emergency plan. It should be flexible enough to easily adapt to the unique characteristics and situations of each University, College, and business setting.

Below is a process provided by multiple federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to help develop a plan, do a comprehensive review of an existing plan or conduct periodic and incremental reviews of a current plan.

The guide provides the following 6 Step Planning Process:

Step 1: Form a Collaborative Planning Team

The first step is to identify the core planning team members. This will help when forming a common framework in which each team member learns the other team members roles and culture. To facilitate effective planning, roles and responsibilities will need to be defined and assigned based on each team member’s skillset. Once this is established it is important to determine a regular schedule of meetings to reinforce the plan.

Step 2: Understand the Situation

Once the planning team identifies possible threats and hazards, it now needs to assess the risk and vulnerabilities posed by those threats and hazards. There are numerous assessments that the planning team may use, including site assessments, culture and climate assessments, behavioral threat assessments, and capacity assessments. With this information, the plan can review and prioritize these threats and hazards to establish a course of action to take if the situation arises.

Step 3: Determine Goals and Objectives

From here, the planning team can decide which of the threats and hazards identified in Step 2 will be addressed in the plan. Hazards that rank “high” in risk priority will likely be a top priority but threats and hazards that rank “medium” may also warrant a response plan. This is a critical decision in the planning process, and it is recommended that the plan address all threats and hazards, not just those in the “high” category.

Step 4: Plan Development (Identifying Courses of Action)

In this step, courses of actions for accomplishing each of the objectives identified in Step 3 (for threats, hazards, and functions) is addressed. Courses of action address the what, who, when, where, why, how for each threat, hazard, and function.

Step 5: Prepare, Review, and Approve the Plan

In Step 5, the planning team develops a draft using the courses of action developed in Step 4. This is where the plan should be in writing so everyone can review and make sure it follows any applicable laws. Once this is complete, share the plan with leadership to attain approval.

Step 6: Implement and Maintain the Plan

Everyone involved in the plan needs to know their roles and responsibilities before, during and after an emergency. Key training components include the following:

  • Hold a meeting – At least once a year, hold a meeting to educate all parties on the plan. Go through the plan to familiarize these stakeholders with it.
  • Exercise the plan – prepare certain types exercises to reinforce the plan. Whether that’s with drills, functional exercises, to full-scare preparedness exercises.
  • Review and revise the plan – Make changes as needed

We’re Here to Help

Implementing an Emergency Plan can be a daunting task. If you feel you could use help getting started, please contact us.

Protecting yourself and others by following the CDC’s recommended safety protocols can help reduce the risk of contracting the virus or spreading it to others.

In these challenging times, the risk of exposure is more prevalent than ever. We can also help with the following safety services:

COVID-19 CONSULTING BUNDLE – Written directive/policy on requirements which can be either a corporate policy or a site-specific policy.

COVID-19 TRAINING (INFECTION CONTROL WEBINAR) – We offer Open Enrollment Classes and Private Company Sponsored Classes made available at your convenience.

COVID19 TESTING – We now offer COVID-19 Testing Services For Colleges, Universities, Private Companies, And Public Agencies

If you have concerns about your workforce and coronavirus, please contact us today to learn about steps you can take to protect yourself, your family, and your employees.