Feather River College prepares for emergencies

Debra Moore
Staff Writer
12/5/2012
 
If Feather River College experienced a natural or manmade disaster, who would declare an emergency? Who would have the authority to cancel classes and send employees home, and who would feed the horses?

  Quick decisions — from broad scope to detailed minutiae — must be made when disaster strikes. It’s not only prudent to protect lives and assets, it’s also the law.

  The California Emergency Services Act requires all state agencies and their subdivisions to have a written plan and be familiar with it.

  Feather River College is now working on such a document. During the board of trustees’ November meeting, an advisor from the state chancellor’s office, Kim Aufhauser, told the trustees that he had spent 2-1/2 days studying the campus and talking to various employees. He said that it was his job to “help colleges streamline and get better prepared.”

  During his research, Aufhauser discovered that the college “doesn’t have anything that resembles an emergency operations plan.”

  But Feather River College isn’t alone. Aufhauser is helping community colleges across the state write a plan and meet state requirements.

  But it goes beyond simply having a plan in place. Aufhauser said that it needs to be shared with other agencies, in particular with the county, and it “can’t be a secret; it needs to be reasonably available.”

  Additionally, the college needs to run drills and conduct emergency exercises so that when a real emergency occurs, faculty, staff and students are ready.

  Aufhauser said it’s even more important in rural areas where outside assistance may not be available immediately.

  He said the trustees need to think in terms of roads being closed, and phone and fax lines being down.

  There should be a designated incident commander, which Aufhauser advised shouldn’t be the college president, because he or she would be tending to a variety of other responsibilities. He suggested that Nick Boyd, the college’s facilities director, might be a good choice and that there be a designated line of succession in the event Boyd wasn’t available during the emergency.

  Some emergencies can’t be prevented, such as earthquakes or severe storms, but some can be averted.

  Aufhauser said that the college “needs to push prevention for people of risk” and cited the situation in Colorado where a troubled student fired upon moviegoers during a premiere of “The Dark Knight.”

  He said there also has to be a “timely notification” system in place so that everyone on campus can be alerted in event of an emergency.

  Aufhauser listed a number of items that need to be considered during an emergency from having an engineer available to certify buildings for occupancy to being able to suspend normal purchasing practices and giving someone the “authority to access emergency funding.”

  In implementing an emergency response, Aufhauser said there have to be “clear trigger points; the decision can’t be arbitrary.”

  Once the immediate emergency is over, there should be a business continuation plan to implement.

  Since Aufhauser was addressing the trustees, he said it was also important for each of them to have their own emergency preparedness plan and recommended that they each have a “go-bag” stashed in their car. The bag would contain such essentials as food, water, medicines, clothing and blankets — items that could sustain them for a couple of days.

  Last month’s meeting was just the beginning of FRC’s preparation.

  “Emergency preparedness is a marathon; it is not a sprint,” Aufhauser told the trustees at the conclusion of his presentation. “You need to move purposely forward and strive for compliance.”

 


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