Each year, natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods and severe storms affect our communities. Health-related incidents such as flu outbreaks, food-borne diseases and even rabid animals can threaten all of us. Unfortunately, institutes of higher education are not immune from these threats and others, such as intruders, crime and violence. And accidents, whether in research labs, classrooms, or parking lots, may occur.
When Hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast in 2005, the University of Southern Mississippi incurred an estimated $57 million, and the storm cost Tulane University more than $200 million in damages. Higher education institutes across the region were affected, not just by the structural damages, but also by setbacks in their scientific research and medical developments. Given today’s threats, higher education institutions must be prepared to respond in partnership with local, state, tribal and federal agencies. As partners, you must respond together in a seamless, coordinated fashion using the same terminology and approach.
The incident command system (ICS) is a standardized, on-scene, all-hazard incident management approach. ICS allows campus personnel and community responders to adopt an integrated organizational structure that matches the complexities and demands of the incidents without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries. With institutes of higher education blending into the larger community response system, ICS allows all involved to know their roles and work together, without jeopardizing anyone’s voice or authority. The ICS structure is flexible. It can grow or shrink to meet different needs. This flexibility makes it a very cost-effective and efficient management approach for both small and large situations and allows us to be better able to interface with other community responders.
If you would like to learn more about ICS, go to the FEMA online basic ICS course (IS-100).