Last week I spent three days in a Crisis Management training program. There were 42 of us in class, representing University Police, Facilities, Residence Life and Housing, Parking, ARAMARK/food service, Communications, Chaplain’s office, Counseling Center, IS, Student Health, Athletics, HR, Budget/Finance, and a few more offices.
These would be the folks who would potentially be the first to respond to a campus disaster and/or who would be charged with arranging logistics and putting things in place to make sure your students’ needs were taken care of during and after an emergency. And as a mother myself and knowing that there is nothing more precious in the world than our children, the first thing I want you to hear is that in a crisis, I would trust the people in that Crisis Management room without hesitation.
The people on Crisis Management are smart, prepared, and well trained. More than that, they are good people who work well together. And all of them have the safety of your kids and the rest of campus as their top priority. I want to say a special word of thanks to our University Police officers. They train regularly as a department, but also work very well with city and county EMS, Fire, PD and others so that everyone is familiar with the campus and we have solid plans in place.
During our training class, we studied a number of case studies of other college crises (natural disasters, active shooters, hostage situations). It is scary, wearying stuff. We talked about efficient operations before, during, and after a disaster. And then we did a WF-specific drill where we were presented with an imaginary disaster (in this case, natural disaster plus fire) and worked out how we’d approach it.
The second thing I want you to hear is the time for your students (and you) to think about and prepare for an emergency is NOW, not during the crisis. We have a great website called Wake Ready that gives emergency preparedness information. Your students need to be aware of things like how they would be notified in a crisis (cell phone text message, email, potentially also outdoor siren) and they should be accustomed to looking at their cell phone/email for official messages. They need to know about what to do if they need to evacuate a building, or what to do in various emergency situations. They also must understand terminology they might see, like what it means if they are told to “shelter in place“. Wake Ready has all of that information for them.
If there were an emergency on campus, there will be official notifications on the WFU website main page and Wake Alert. It is important to note that I will not be updating the Parents’ Page during a crisis (I will likely be deployed elsewhere), but you will see an emergency banner at the top of the page linking you to the official news and information.
Related to communication, the third thing I want you to know – and talk about with your students – is that we want students to let parents know they are OK as quickly and safely as they can. If your student reaches out and tells you he or she is OK, we can help keep our phone lines and personnel here focused on the emergency.
My fourth point for you is we would ask both students and parents to follow directions and recommendations that are communicated to you. For example, if we say that the campus is closed except for emergency vehicles, please do not attempt to drive onto campus (we will work out ways for you to reach your students and communicate those pickup points when the situation is stable).
No one wants to think about emergencies and crises, but it is to everyone’s benefit to plan and prepare now. Though it is scary stuff, it is stuff we need to talk about. So urge your students to be familiar with Wake Ready, and you as parents and families read it all too.
And this is the final thing I want you to hear: God forbid anything terrible was happening, our University Police would be the ones running TOWARD the crisis and putting themselves in harm’s way so the rest of us can stay safe. I have the utmost respect for Chief Lawson and her team. They are ready to give it all on any day for us.
So please, the next time you see a campus cop, please say thank you to them for their service.