Risk Reduction and Emergency Preparedness Activities of Canadian Universities

August 2006 (VOL. 24, NO. 2)

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Preparing for emergencies and disasters has become a necessary part of daily operations of businesses, municipalities, and institutions. Furthermore, educational institutions such as universities, colleges, and schools are not immune to the impacts of disasters (FEMA 443, 2003; Kuban and MacKenzie-Carey, 2001; Miller, 2002; U.S. Department of Education, 2003). Universities are realizing they are exposed to the impact of disasters and that emergency/disaster response requires careful coordination and communication with other organizations and entities that have the resources and skills necessary to manage and respond to particular emergencies (Auf der Heide, 1989; FEMA 443, 2003; Kuban et al., 2001; Mileti, 1999). In Canada, the primary responsibility for emergency preparedness and response is that of the municipality, or local authority, within which a university is located. What then is the role of a university in preparing for and responding to emergencies or disasters? In the absence of compulsory standards, regulations or legislation, universities, based on the survey of this project, are nevertheless reviewing risks and hazards, implementing long-term strategies, and developing relationships with the local municipality. All of these should consider the unique characteristics of the campus environment, which include an open and accessible environment, a functionally separate hierarchy of administrators and academics, a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary workforce, and a diverse student body, to name a few. After understanding the unique characteristics of the campus environment universities can address emergency preparedness and disaster management by building on the basics of existing and generally accepted standards, such as the NFPA 1600 (NFPA 2000). Additionally, many universities operate much like a municipality (i.e., infrastructure, constituents, and an incorporated government structure) making existing municipal emergency or disaster-related standards, regulations, and legislation also applicable. Further investigation into the application of these standards, regulations, and legislation to the university environment is required to validate the similarities.