UI Department of Public Safety establishes emergency management team


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Disasters can strike at any moment, and one newly created management team is working to be prepared during those situations. 

The University of Iowa Department of Public Safety created the All-Hazard Emergency Management Team to efficiently respond to incidents that affect not only the university but also Johnson County. Officials with the Public Safety started recruiting volunteers in December 2012.

The team was structured in compliance with the National Incident Management System and Incident Command System that was established after the 9/11 attacks. This structure is used nationwide.

“It provides for consistent, organized emergency and event management with a common, well-established national language that enhances communications with all participants,” said Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI Department of Public Safety.

There is no extra funding needed for this program, because the members of the emergency-management team are volunteers. The 60-person team is undergoing a free online training program, and will go through a physical training provided by Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The team is unique to campus because the involvement of other departments in the university, including Facilities Management, Student Services, and Hygienic Lab personnel.

Green said he was unaware of any other universities that had a similar program, however he knew other campuses that had programs with similar outcomes.

This program models a successful program established at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. The Hospital Incident Command System was established in 2004 after the State of Iowa encouraged hospitals to adopt an incident command program.

“This program has been a model for many other programs and is said to be world class, especially after the flood and during the H1N1 pandemic,” said Mike Hartley, emergency management coordinator at the UIHC. “The main campus is now looking at how to use this management approach.”

With the UI using the same emergency-management structure, it creates an easier and more efficient way to communicate not only with the hospital, but with Johnson County and the state of Iowa.

Other emergency service providers in cities, states, and the nation began applying the National Incident Management System and Incident Command System structure to address protracted emergencies and also as a planning tool for events, Green said.

“This is a structure of emergency services that will be used nationwide and it allows us to communicate with the county and the state,” he said. “If we need assistance outside the region, they will be familiar with our program.”

The team consists of four sections: a planning section, a logistics section, an operation section, and a finance and administration section. Each section will have a chief officer that will communicate with university officials.

“We have a general idea where we are going to put people,” Green said. “We match people’s talents or people who have that title, and after training we will select people to be placed in the right category.”

Christopher Atchison, a clinical professor of the College of Public Health and the director of the UI Hygienic Lab, hopes to use his credentials to help with this program.

“I certainly expect to serve as a liaison between the state Hygienic Lab and with the all-hazard team,” he said. “But other roles would unfold after training and once we implement the structure for the team.”

Later this year, Public Safety officials hope to conduct a drill so volunteers can practice the skills they learned from training.

“We understand that an emergency can occur at any time and that no one is available 365 days a year, we are hoping to have multiple individuals for each position being offered,” Green said.

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