Up to Speed

After a recent column, a number of readers e-mailed to say that their safety plans were missing significant components and to seek additional information on plan evaluation to help improve their plans. Having a best practices quality safety plan is nothing short of a life and death matter. While most institutions have plans superior to those of five or 10 years ago, and far better plans than many other types of organizations, few higher ed officials indicate they have plans that address all four phases of emergency management in specific, written and detailed form as recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.


The following summarized version of a self-assessment plan evaluation checklist may be helpful in your efforts to ensure you have the very best plan possible.


Plan Sections


A complete plan should have four distinct, written sections to address all four phases of emergency management. Any missing section can result in chronic plan failure, serious injury or death and increased civil liability. A plan that does not contain all four plan sections in distinct and written form is an incomplete plan.


Prevention and mitigation — This section includes a compilation of all measures in place to prevent accidents, fires and criminal acts, as well as measures to mitigate those situations that occur. Mitigation efforts are designed to minimize the negative impact of those incidents that either cannot be prevented (such as a tornado) or that occur in spite of prevention efforts.


Preparedness — The preparedness plan is the written plan that specifically guides the actions of staff during a crisis or disaster. Preparedness efforts to support the plan also include stockpiling disaster supplies, training of all full- and part-time employees and the coordination of a progressive exercise program.


Response — The response plan is the formal written plan that enables the recorder from the crisis response team to log critical functions from the emergency operations plan to ensure they are not missed by staff functioning under extreme stress. The response plan also provides a system for documenting who performed crucial steps and when they were carried out. The response plan also outlines the incident command system under the National Incident Command System model in written form.


Recovery — The first recovery plan component is the mental health plan outlining crucial functions like death notification, the crisis recovery model that will be used and the organization’s involvement in memorials. The second component is the business continuity plan that spells out how the purpose of the institution will be resumed or continued in spite of major disasters.


A checklist should verify that your plan contains details on the following.

    • All full- and part-time employees receive formal briefings and/or training on the proper implementation of the plan. Training has been documented in written form.

    • A progressive exercise program has been established that involves drills as appropriate to local hazards, including lockdown, shelter in place, reverse evacuation, severe weather and earthquake.

    • Other exercises which include tabletop exercises, functional exercises and a full-scale exercise.

    • The plan addresses all types of hazards that have been identified as relevant by the local emergency management agency.

    • Representatives from the following agencies (at a minimum) have been involved with plan development and have reviewed the final draft plan: Law enforcement, fire service, emergency management, public health department and emergency medical services.

    • An internal review, verifying that representatives from the following departments (at a minimum) have been involved with plan development and have reviewed the final draft plan: Risk management, university police, food services, student services, legal, finance, public information office and student government.

    • The plan has been externally reviewed by a person or agency with emergency management expertise (such as the state emergency management agency).

    • The plan has distinct and separate protocols for biological, chemical and radiological incidents to reflect these very different specific types of incidents rather than lumping them together under one category.

    • The crisis team can receive emergency communications by at least two means besides telephone.

    • A system is in place to quickly communicate emergency conditions throughout the campus to order a lockdown, shelter in place, emergency evacuation, etc. External public address capability has been developed.

    • Plan components for every category of employee (for example, ready reference flip charts) that are each developed to be role-specific for different categories of employees, such as department heads, faculty, facilities, university police, food service, custodial, general staff, etc.


Effective safety requires the ability to periodically assess our safety and emergency preparedness measures in a critical manner. A thoughtful self-evaluation of campus safety plans can save lives.



Michael Dorn serves as the executive director for Safe Havens International Inc., an IRS-approved, non-profit safety center. He has authored and co-authored more than 20 books on campus safety and can be reached through the Safe Havens Website at .


About the Author

Michael S. Dorn has helped conduct security assessments for more than 6,000 K-12 schools, keynotes conferences internationally and has published 27 books including Staying Alive – How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters. He can be reached at www.safehavensinternational.org.

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