National Center for Campus Public Safety

Defining the Value of Campus Emergency Management Programs to Communities

Download the forum report.
At its most fundamental level, emergency management is a managerial function responsible for creating a framework that helps communities reduce their vulnerability to hazards and cope with disasters so that those communities are safer and more resilient. Institutions of higher education (IHEs), like many communities, are vulnerable to a variety of hazards and frequently must cope with emergencies. For them, the work to identify and mitigate those hazards, as well as prepare for, respond to, and recover from various natural, technological, and human-caused incidents often falls to in-house emergency management programs.

Today, most IHEs have emergency management teams, but many do not. According to the 2016 National Higher Education Emergency Management Program Needs Assessment study, approximately one-third of the respondents at IHEs from 45 states had no full-time employees in their emergency management programs. Another third had just one full-time employee. This same study indicated that only about a third of institutions represented by respondents had business continuity plans, continuity of operations plans, or recovery plans. It also found that institutional commitment or buy-in is one of the biggest challenges emergency management programs face.

These and other significant challenges in IHE emergency management may signal the presence of a larger issue: the lack of a compelling value proposition for emergency management in communities. Accordingly, on October 19, 2018, a group of campus emergency management leaders, with support from the National Center for Campus Public Safety, gathered in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a one-day forum to discuss ways to define emergency management’s value to the whole community. Fifteen emergency management leaders, including university and college emergency managers, chiefs of police, and campus safety administrators, came from 13 IHEs across the country to participate.

Working with an experienced facilitator, forum participants identified specific strategic challenges and evaluated potential solutions for sustaining interest, improving visibility, and improving strategic alignment that may help define the value of campus emergency management to communities. Participants also created a list of value-critical elements, key items they felt were critical to developing value propositions, and drafted three value statements that campus emergency management teams can utilize to communicate their value to their communities.

The final report was developed from the forum discussions and intends to capture the participants’ ideas, key takeaways, and conclusions.

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