SOURCE: Academic Impressions

Academic Impressions

January 25, 2010 15:14 ET

Academic Impressions Webcast: Testing Crisis Response Plans Is Key to Ensuring Campuses Protect Resources and Bounce Back Faster Following Crises

Thought Leaders Address Best Practices Regarding the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of Testing Institutional Crisis Response Plans to Bolster Preparedness for Environmental, Facility and Human-Caused Incidents

DENVER, CO--(Marketwire - January 25, 2010) - Nearly a quarter of higher education administrators polled in a recent Academic Impressions ( survey reported their institutions had not tested their campus crisis response plan in over five years, while another 13 percent reported their plans had not been tested within the last two years. "This finding indicates that a sizable subset of colleges and universities may be unaware of their crisis response plan's true ability to effectively address a modern campus emergency -- a salient gamble in the wake of a series of high-profile campus crises," explains Marla Whipple, conference director at Academic Impressions.

In a complimentary webcast presented on Friday by Academic Impressions titled "Crisis Response: Testing Your Emergency Plan," higher education administrators heard proven strategies for executing tests of crisis response plans as well as best practices for maximizing the emergency response effort on campus. An experienced panel of experts, including Steve Charvat with the University of Washington, Cindy Lawson with the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and Eugene Zdziarski with Roanoke College, offered practical action items to move institutions toward creating disaster-resistant campuses, which include:

    1.  Set a schedule for testing, reviewing, and revising institutional
        crisis response plans. Amend plans based upon what campuses learned
        from practice tests and from evaluating successes and failures of
        other schools' emergency management protocol.

    2.  Establish relationships with key external stakeholders well in
        advance of a crisis. An effective means for cultivating these
        relationships is participating in drills conducted by external
        groups such as city or county emergency management, which can yield
        valuable lessons on how to interact with these critical external

    3.  Develop a graduated set of achievable tests, starting with basic
        drills and increasing the complexity over time. Keep in mind that
        it can sometimes take years to reach the stage wherein a campus is
        prepared to execute a full-scale crisis simulation.

    4.  Mix up the drills and exercises conducted annually, testing
        different functions, scenarios and activities. This approach will
        ensure stakeholders become accustomed to responding to the variety
        of crisis situations that can affect a campus, including
        environmental, facility and human-caused incidents.

"Too many organizations have crisis response plans drafted but fail to test the effectiveness of those plans in dealing with different crisis scenarios," explained webcast speaker Cindy Lawson, Assistant to the Chancellor for Marketing and Communications at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. "The existence of a crisis response plan provides false security for colleges and universities -- merely reading it does not mean institutional stakeholders know their role in relation to others or instruct those stakeholders regarding how to interact with the necessary outside agencies. Testing plans is critical to making campus safer for students, faculty and staff."

In response to the intense demand for the webcast, a complimentary recording of which is now available at, Charvat, Lawson and Zdziarksi will participate in an in-depth live conference March 27-29, 2010 in Atlanta that will continue the conversation launched during Friday's webcast. The conference, "Campus Crisis Simulation: Improving Campus-Wide Response to an Emergency," will orchestrate a full-day simulated emergency, allowing institutions to test their crisis response plans and evaluate the coordination of efforts across multiple departments. In addition the campus crisis simulation, the conference will offer debrief sessions moderated by crisis management thought leaders and key best practices to designing effective tests and adjusting plans based on testing outcomes. To view the conference agenda or to register, visit

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