USM Board of Regents Adopts New Campus Emergency Preparedness Policy

ADELPHI, Md. (September 5, 2008) - The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents voted unanimously today to adopt a new policy on campus emergency planning, preparedness, and response. The policy applies to the system's 11 universities and two research centers. In light of this new policy, all USM institutions will be required to submit their emergency preparedness plans to USM Office by January 12, 2009, for review and approval.

"Events such as the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech and Hurricane Katrina's devastating effects on colleges in New Orleans have brought the need for comprehensive campus emergency preparedness and response into a sharp focus," said Board Chair Clifford Kendall. "The regents established a campus safety and security workgroup last December to review current practices and recommend ways for improving emergency planning and accountability overall. This policy is the result of that effort."

Thirty-four representatives from all USM campuses as well as the Board of Regents and the system's information technology and telecommunication office staffed the workgroup. Three working subgroups focused on different aspects of campus emergency preparedness: risk assessment and planning, emergency preparedness and prevention, and response and recovery. In preparation of its report and the new board policy, the workgroup and subgroups heard presentations on current practices, experiences, and challenges in the area of campus emergency planning, prevention, and preparedness. It also consulted the expertise of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and outside experts in campus and homeland security.

"The workgroup began its deliberations in January and put many hours into understanding the complexity and challenges of campus emergency planning," said Regent Marvin Mandel, who chaired the workgroup. "I was truly impressed with the expertise and experience among the staff at our institutions.  Their contributions were invaluable to development of this new policy."

The new board policy (VI-13.0) outlines basic areas that all USM institutional emergency preparedness plans must address, including:

  • Organization and coordination on campus and with off-campus emergency responders;
  • Annual institutional risk assessments that review a comprehensive range of threats, including natural disasters, hazardous materials, terrorism, violent crime, and pandemic diseases;
  • Emergency preparedness and prevention testing, training, and comprehensive communications plans;
  • Response and recovery, including redundant and varied systems or warnings and communications, and establishing emergency operations centers;
  • Creation of permanent multi-disciplinary behavioral assessment teams to review reports and take appropriate action on potentially distressed or disturbed members of campus communities, including students, staff, and faculty.

In addition, the policy specifically recommends that USM institutions adopt a variety of best practices for emergency preparedness and response, including:

  • Developing plans for continuity of operations and the continuation of IT services, communications, and essential business functions in the case of incidents with long-term impacts;
  • Utilization of a full-range of testing, such as tabletop exercises, drills, and full-scale simulation exercises, to ensure the effectiveness of plans and response mechanisms.

"All of our campuses have emergency response plans in place, but we thought it best to codify and standardize what all USM institutions must do to ensure the fullest measure of planning and preparedness," said USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan. "Emergency response plans are constantly evolving and recent events across the nation speak to the value of ongoing training, review, coordination, and testing to ensure plans are effective tools for campus crises."

Click here to access the new campus emergency planning, preparedness, and response policy.


Contact: John Buettner
Phone: 301.445.2719