Campus Safety

What are the elements of an emergency response plan?

Disasters can strike at any time, on any given day. For some events, you may have the opportunity for prep time, but others happen without warning. Whether a disaster is natural or man-made, having an emergency response plan in place will help you be prepared.

Working with an organization familiar with campus emergencies is helpful to ensure your plan considers the types of incidents that can occur. Before developing the plan, risk assessment is critical. Conducting a risk assessment helps identify events that could impact your campus.

The minimum critical elements of an effective emergency response program should include a risk assessment specific to the campus and community; develop a robust emergency plan that addresses how to mitigate, prepare, respond, and recover from hazards and risks; include crisis communication planning and provide training, drills, and updates. Once the plan is complete, practice is key.

An effective emergency response program would not only include an evacuation plan, but also a plan to shelter-in-place when necessary. If the decision is to shelter-in-place additional needs include securing buildings; maintaining sufficient food and water supplies; communication and accounting for students, faculty, and staff.

An emergency response plan should be a living document. It needs to be updated on a regular basis and tested at least annually. The plan should also be developed and written in an operational, user-friendly manner.

Responding to any event will still be a challenge. However, the ability for your team to coordinate the response to protect your community’s safety and welfare and maintain the reputation of the school will be enhanced by your planning and preparation.

This article originally appeared in the College Planning & Management July/August 2019 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

Vivian Marinelli, Psy.D., is the senior director of Crisis Management Services for FEI Behavioral Health (