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CMU enhances emergency management, campus safety efforts

New website focuses on preparedness and taking action during an emergency

Contact: Heather Smith

Emergencies are rare on the campus of Central Michigan University, yet CMU officials are prepared to address any event that might occur, from a weather event to a chemical spill to an act of violence.

A tragic domestic violence event that left the parents of a CMU student dead on campus in March of this year, however, prompted university officials to take a deep dive into emergency management efforts.

What resulted are enhanced efforts in education, training and campus safety — including a new website to prepare faculty, staff and students to be their own best first responders during any emergency that can occur at CMU.

“While the March 2 event was handled extremely well, we received valuable feedback that helped us as we began our assessment of the incident,” said Jonathan Webb, CMU’s vice president for facilities management.

"This is an ongoing effort and something we are vested in, as the safety of our CMU family is our No. 1 priority." — Jonathan Webb, vice president for facilities management

Webb and a team of CMU staff from several campus offices have spent the months since the event assessing emergency management at CMU. Areas of focus included communications, access controls, education and training, and emergency planning. Progress on these topics includes:

  • An updated emergency communications plan, which provides a framework for emergency communications at CMU.
  • Further access control installation in classrooms and residence halls across campus.
  • Reaffirmation of the National Incident Management System as a basis for CMU’s emergency management program. Staff participated in training sessions and tabletop exercises utilizing this system.
  • An improved education and training program based on the Department of Homeland Security’s platform.

“We are committed, and have made it a priority, to having and maintaining a safe campus environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors,” said CMU President Bob Davies. “This work has reaffirmed CMU’s commitment to this priority of safety and I commend the efforts of so many who have dedicated their time to this over the past several months.”

Increased classroom, residence hall safety

When students returned to campus in August, they returned to a more secure campus. Increased efforts this summer ensured access controls are now present on the exterior of all of CMU’s 22 residence halls and the Graduate Housing complex, as well as the interior of the Towers and East complexes.

In addition, classrooms and auditoriums throughout campus now have mechanical and electronic door locks so rooms can be secured from the inside.

Webb said this was a three-phase project that started in 2016 and includes 20 buildings — 19 on campus and the College of Medicine educational facility in Saginaw.

Phases one and two of the project already were complete, and phase three was completed this summer.

“This is a vital initiative to help keep our students, faculty and staff safe when they may need it the most,” said Lt. Cameron Wassman of the CMU Police Department. “I appreciate the collaboration across campus, including with Residence Life, Facilities Management and the academic division, to bring this project to life.”

Educating campus to prepare, take action

Preparing the campus community for emergencies and providing education on what to do during those emergencies is a focal point of CMU’s emergency management assessment.

“We took a comprehensive look at resources, materials and content related to emergency management on CMU’s website,” said CMU Communications Director Heather Smith. “What resulted was a comprehensive, centralized site that is easy to understand and navigate, whether you want to learn how to prepare for an emergency or if you need to know how to act if an emergency is underway.”

The team decided some improvements were necessary, particularly to availability and accessibility of emergency management information and resources for faculty, staff and students.

The new CMU Emergency Management website contains information on:

  • Getting ready for and taking action in an emergency.
  • The Central Alert emergency notification system.
  • Emergency communications.
  • Action plans for each building on campus.
  • Information on evacuating and sheltering in place.
  • Campus resources.

Availability and accessibility of information and resources for faculty, staff and students are at the center of CMU’s emergency management website.

Continued assessment, improvements

CMU’s emphasis on emergency management will only continue.

Next steps for continuation of emergency management program reviews, assessments and improvements include:

  • An update to CMU’s Emergency Operations Plan, which outlines how the university will respond to and recover from all hazards.
  • Expansion of ways to seek feedback from the campus community.
  • Consistent communication to the campus community related to emergency management preparedness and action.
  • Installation of additional access controls in CMU’s residence halls through the summer of 2019.
  • Assessment of hazard vulnerability, resulting in the development of a hazard mitigation plan.
  • Development of a Building Emergency Management and Safety Advisors Program.

“This is an ongoing effort and something we are vested in, as the safety of our CMU family is our No. 1 priority,” Webb said.

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