ED Hands Out Nearly $10 million in Grants for Emergency Management Planning
- By Dian Schaffhauser
The United States Department of Education has awarded grants worth $9.7 million to 26 colleges and universities to develop and strengthen their emergency management plans. Part of the funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The program received grant applications from about 260 institutions.
"Sending your children off to college can be difficult enough, but you shouldn't have to worry about their safety and how well a campus is prepared to handle emergencies," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "These grants will ensure that campuses have the resources to develop comprehensive emergency plans that involve the community."
Each plan, as specified in the grant application, must address all four phases of emergency management: prevention-mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Funds may be used to update existing emergency management plans, conduct vulnerability assessments of campus facilities, provide training to campus staff and students, organize tabletop exercises or large-scale drills, collaborate with local first responders and community partners, and develop or enhance plans for preventing violence on campus by assessing and addressing the mental health needs of students who may be at risk of causing campus violence.
Among the recipients was Miami Dade College, which received $499,999. The funding will help the college manage its own emergency mitigation efforts through a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) for its eight campuses and multiple outreach centers.
The CEMP will incorporate the guidance of both college personnel and an external advisory committee made up of representatives from partnering agencies, which include Miami-Dade County, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the county's Health Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and various municipalities. MDC's eight campuses are serviced by six local law enforcement agencies and three fire rescue agencies.
"Collaboration with off-campus emergency response agencies is a particularly critical need at [Miami Dade College] due to the location of campuses within multiple law enforcement and fire rescue jurisdictions," said Scott Burnotes, director of emergency preparedness. "We're committed to enhancing collaboration and communication with these agencies to avoid duplication of effort. This way, we ensure that our emergency policies, plans, and procedures are consistent with local, state and federal plans. Considering the population we serve, it's imperative that we continue being as prepared as possible for any major campus emergency."
To secure the grant, the college submitted a proposal based on several needs, mainly improving its existing emergency plans and the entire college community's level of awareness, and maintaining the National Incident Management System requirements mandated by the Department of Homeland Security.
Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security awarded the college $50,000 from the State Homeland Security Grant Program for enhancements to its mass notification capabilities and another $75,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Urban Area Security Initiative Nonprofit Grant Program to increase security at the Freedom Tower, an offsite building used as a cultural center.