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1 in 4 Campuses Have Never Tested Crisis Management Plan

Nearly a quarter of colleges and universities have never tested their campus crisis response plan, and, of those that have, only a third said they found the plan effective in dealing with a crisis. Those are some of the results of a proprietary survey designed to gauge the effectiveness of crisis response on college and university campuses. Academic Impressions, which holds events for higher education, did the survey through e-mail in January 2010 and received responses from administrators in admissions, student affairs, business/planning, human resources, and campus leadership at institutions across the country.

According to the results, 54 percent of institutions have tested their crisis response plan in the last year; 23 percent have never tested their plans. The largest obstacles to executing tests, according to the research, were timing (67 percent), participation (43 percent), budget (40 percent), and securing campus-wide buy-in (36 percent).

The survey also found that 51 percent of schools have had a crisis on their campus in the last two years; and a third of respondents have low or no confidence in their institution's ability to execute the plan in the event of an emergency. Only a fifth of respondents said their campuses had annual meetings to brief the relevant people on the crisis response plan.

"In the wake of several high-profile campus crises, the importance of regular evaluation and testing of crisis management plans is critical to ensuring a coordinated, multi-departmental campus response," said Marla Whipple, conference director at Academic Impressions. "Institutions should implement and adhere to foundational testing protocols to increase preparedness for environmental, facility, and human-caused incidents."

The company offered this advice for developing a crisis response plan:

1. Set a schedule for testing, reviewing, and revising the plan. Amend plans based on what participants learn from practice tests and from evaluating successes and failures of other schools' emergency management protocol.

2. Develop a graduated set of achievable tests, starting with basic drills and increasing the complexity over time. The company said that reaching the stage where a full-scale crisis simulation can take place could take years.

3. Mix up the drills and exercises conducted annually, testing different functions, scenarios, and activities. This approach gives stakeholders practice in responding to the variety of crisis situations that can affect a campus, including environmental, facility, and human-caused incidents.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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