Emergency preparedness registry helps bring Focus Award

April 4, 2011

Ron Wright (left) and Jefferson Howells of the Campus Emergency Preparedness and Planning Office receive the 2011 organization Focus Award from Alysa Rollock, vice president for ethics and compliance. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

Download image

Purdue presented four Focus Awards on March 1 for outstanding contributions to furthering the University's commitment to disability accessibility and diversity. Today, Purdue Today is featuring the organization recipient, the Campus Emergency Preparedness and Planning Office.

The Focus Award recognized in particular the office's creation of a voluntary registry for persons requesting assistance in an emergency, sheltering-in-place or building evacuation.

"The registry asks simply what assistance a person might need," says Jefferson Howells, assistant project director for the office. "It does not require that a person disclose any specific disability, but rather, where they are located and how responders may best assist them during emergencies on campus." The voluntary registry form is in a PDF file linked from the "What's new" portion of the office's home page at www.purdue.edu/emergency_preparedness and also as Appendix C of the Building Emergency Plan Template.

"The computer-aided dispatch system used to store completed voluntary registry information can be accessed by all police, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) responders within Tippecanoe County during times of emergency," he says. "This is especially important to off-campus responders called onto campus to support response efforts."

On campus, Emergency Preparedness and Planning has worked to develop comprehensive emergency plans and strengthen lines of communication with a broad base of offices. Many people are aware of the multilayered all-hazards warning system. The voluntary registry is another dimension.

"Other colleges and universities are asking about Purdue's emergency plans and the voluntary registry," Howells says. "But few have their own internal fire, police, EMS, computer-aided dispatch center and Radiological and Environmental Management assets to leverage in support of these plans and registry."

Since its establishment in December 2006, this office, under the direction of Ron Wright, has aimed at comprehensive measures and taking the lead. Its vision helped it win a $436,325 Emergency Management in Higher Education grant in October 2008 from the U.S. Department of Education, one of 17 nationally from 259 grant applications. The grant brought Howells, a former member of the Purdue Fire Department, back to the University to help fill out the plans.

Another aspect of the office's recent work has been development of a mental health resources plan that highlights what various campus units are able to bring to a situation in four key emergency management areas: prevention, preparedness, response, recovery.

"Continuity of operations is a key idea," Howells says. "Our plans serve as foundational frameworks to build upon and adapt to changing campus needs and situations."

The office also has recently added an online flip chart at https://www.purdue.edu/emergency_preparedness/flipchart/index.html to help site visitors find information.

The work of this campus office is drawing attention from elsewhere. The Journal of Emergency Management carried an article about the mental health resources plan. Howells is co-writing a chapter about preparing campus public safety responders for a campus flu epidemic, to be included in a publication later this year. He also is working with Purdue Calumet, which last fall received a grant of the same sort that Purdue West Lafayette received two years earlier, in order to increase and integrate emergency preparedness and planning activities on campus.