“Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it (Habakkuk 2:2).’”
While the entire Fresno Pacific University administration, faculty and staff do the important work of creating and implementing ways to better attract, educate, retain and serve students, some members of each of those groups take on the extra role of protecting the university community from natural disasters and human threats.
The Emergency Management Team (EMT) provides planning and training for the kinds of incidents that we see daily in the news, as well as others that could disrupt lives and the operations of the university. It’s our job to think about the unthinkable.
Pam Schock, assistant dean for student development and Title IX coordinator, and I became co-coordinators of the EMT in the summer of 2018. Our first project was to update the Emergency Operation Plan and create an Emergency Response Guide. These documents provide overall guidance for dealing with emergencies in general and templates for specific incidents. We hired a nationally recognized consultant with higher education experience to do a risk assessment of our campuses and assist us. After we completed the plan and the guide in April of 2019, we tested our plans by holding our first tabletop exercise. Tabletops bring together staff from various parts of the university, ranging from campus safety to food services, as well as top administrators, to run through a fictional scenario of an emergency without losing life or property.
During this time, our country was plagued with mass shootings, and 2019 ended with more than 400 of these tragic events across the United States. The FPU community was asking for active shooter training, and the EMT created a course and began giving trainings on how to respond. As we prepared for active shooter instruction, the region started having earthquakes during the summer and fall. This led the EMT to develop an emergency procedures flyer and have the university participate in an earthquake drill.
The Emergency Management Team comprises leaders from departments such as human resources, facilities, information technology (IT), residence life, athletics, communications and food services, just to name a few. The Campus Safety Office oversees this team, which answers to the President’s Emergency Management Team (PEMT). When a major incident occurs, be it man-made or natural, the EMT comes together personally or virtually, gathers information and develops plans and suggestions to be presented to the PEMT. Members of the EMT implement decisions of the PEMT, and follow procedures laid out in the Emergency Operations Plan and Emergency Response Guide, both of which have been approved by the President’s Cabinet.
As we know too well, 2020 brought on a new set of challenges. COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020 by the World Health Organization. On March 19, Governor Newsom ordered the state to go on lock down. Members of the EMT met daily, developing plans and protocols, ordering cleaning equipment and supplies and hiring additional cleaning staff to confront this new virus. When the decision was made that students would not return after the extended spring break and FPU would go to online instruction, that meant our campuses would also be locked down and only essential employees would have access to campuses and students living on main campus. Now EMT helped define who were essential and non-essential employees and how were we going to lock down the campuses and control who is coming and going. With help from IT we developed a screening app on MyFPU which students, staff and employees can complete prior to going through a checkpoint for entry to our main campus.
Whether it be a dangerous person coming onto campus or a virus engulfing our world, the goal of emergency management is to ensure that mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery plans exist and are effectively executed so that public welfare and safety is preserved.
“Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you (2 Timothy 1:14).”