Home2018-2019Preparing for the worst at WU

Preparing for the worst at WU

Aubryn Walters,
Layout Editor

At any given time there is the potential for disaster, which is officially designated as ‘risk’ level. According to the Cornell Preparation and Mitigation Plan, there are four main types of risk: natural, human related, terrorism and technological.

Oregon seems like a relatively hazard-free part of the country, with none of the hurricanes or tornadoes that plague other regions. The mild climate makes severe weather infrequent, especially compared to other states. However, both human related hazards as well as less frequent, but extremely destructive, natural disasters, like megathrust earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, mean that Oregonians need to be just as prepared for disasters as anyone else.

Two of the Cornell Prevention and Mitigation Plan risk categories, human related and terrorism, are caused by humans. These include causes that are either direct or unintentional, on both a large and small scale.

Technological risk centers around failure of infrastructure, but it also includes things like cyber attacks and data breaches. These are caused by both malintent and lack of structural integrity.

Natural risk comes from different geological and climatic hazards, as well as disease and other hazards, which do not come from direct human action. These depend on the location, geomorphological and population makeup of a given area. Compounding natural hazards can make one area especially prone to risk, compared to another area.

Most of these hazards are defined as either large-scale or smalls-scale, with the scale being directly related to the frequency of the event; small scale events generally occur more often than large scale ones. This makes differences in severity hard to compare as their scales make creating policy difficult. Because of this, it is helpful to define the scale of each risk and categorize the different hazards based on those scales.

Small-scale risks happen frequently and generally affect a small number of people or a small geographic area. They also generally have a small magnitude, or extent to which people are affected. For example, theft is a small-scale occurrence, since one incidence only affects a small number of people and usually has a small magnitude, although this varies greatly based on the crime itself.

Medium-scale risks are characterized within a range between frequent and infrequent. They affect a larger geographic area than the small scale risks, and have a an intermediate magnitude. The magnitude can vary, which makes the frequency and area affected important in defining a medium-sized event. For example, a security breach or hack affects a larger area and are infrequent. It has a larger magnitude, as it would affect a whole school, or company, for example, rather than just an individual.

Large-scale risks range from moderately frequent to infrequent, although they are usually on the infrequent side. They have a larger geographic scale, and importantly, they have a large magnitude affected by the event. Dam failure is an example of a large scale risk. It happens infrequently, but has a large geographic impact, as well as a large magnitude.

The party responsible for mitigating this risk depends on location, primary funding source to the location and how important risk management is to the population included in that area.

All of these hazards are greatly impacted by a myriad of factors, including seasonality and time of day. What risks come from a flood happening in the winter versus the summer vary greatly. During the summer, there might be more people outside and have an increased risk of being swept away, whereas in the winter there is the possibility of the water then freezing and creating an entirely. different hazard

Time of day also impacts the effects of a hazard because of where the people are. If a severe storm happened during the day, people would be at work or school, thus putting the possibility of onus on the workplaces and educational institutions. People would also have the added challenge of getting home from where they work, which can become even more difficult depending on the length of their commute. However, if the distaster occurs at night, people are at their homes where they are the ones responsible for taking care of themselves and would have their families in a centralized location.

Courtesy of Cornell Prevention and Mitigation Plan
A representation of the possible hazards, ordered in decreasing risk level.


Willamette’s risk preparedness plan is called the “Emergency Management Plan for All Hazards” (EMPAH) and was last updated Sept. 21, 2017. It is what you would call an all hazards plan, as it is not specifically tailored to specific events. Instead of creating an exhaustive list of all that is expected for each disaster, which would be a large use of time and resources, the University chose to make a formula for what to do in the event of any disaster.

The first part of the plan is a departmental response. This outlines the details of the system that is in place, as well as how the University should act. Along with this, the University outlines the personal responsibility of those that attend and work at the school. They are expected to be familiar with the emergency response protocols for before, during and after an emergency.

The plan defines who can activate the emergency response plan, as well as what responsibilities should be taken care of. For example, if the emergency response plan is activated, those responding should make protecting lives and gathering information, etc. their main priorities. It also states that, should an emergency occur during non-working hours, there would likely be significantly fewer people available to manage the event, and whoever is on campus would respond.

Willamette has its own three-tiered system of emergency action levels. Level one is a critical incident or pre-planned event. This is defined by being “minor, localized, quickly resolved or contained,” according to the emergency plan. Level two is a campus emergency. This is defined as a “major event, sizable portions of campus, disrupts operations or educational mission.” The third level is a disaster. It is defined by affecting the “entire campus or surrounding community, little external help.”

There are three main branches that operate under the senior leadership team to respond to an emergency. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will be working with the responders as well as being in close contact with the other two branches and the senior leadership team. This will be located in Campus Safety, with a backup location in the Hatfield Library 24-Hour study room.

The Communications Center (CC) will be communicating with the outside, especially the news media. In a Nov. 11 lecture, “Willamette University’s Emergency Management Plan: The Successes and Challenges,” Director of Campus Safety Ross Stout said the CC should be located in an area very near to the EOC so they can interact and pass information but not get in the way of each other’s processes.

The Student Information and Resource Center serves the student population in the wake of the emergency. In the event of a disaster, it will be located in Cat Cavern, with the backup location of Montag.

The table above profiles potential hazards. Calculated Risk Priority Index (CPRI), weighs different factors to determine the planning significance of a natural hazard for both Salem, Oregon and Marion County.

There will be three main places to get emergency information. The emergency notification system will be activated as soon as possible. This broadcasts to the University over the phones and speakers located around campus. The Willamette website is another source that will be updated with information. Lastly, you can call an emergency information line at 503-370-6000 to get updates.

Courtesy of Cornell Prevention and Mitigation Plan
A representation of the possible hazards, ordered in decreasing risk level.

In the event that evacuation needs to take place, evacuation plans posted inside each of the buildings should be followed. Once evacuated, areas should not be returned to unless the area has been cleared for reentry. When dismissed from campus, the school will ask for information on where you are going and a number to reach you, to account for everyone should a family member call asking for your whereabouts. The area response plan is the most comprehensive part of the plan. These areas are not physical areas on campus, but instead assigns responsibilities based on the three branches of emergency response (EOC, CC, SIRC). For example, the Director of Student Activities and Associate Dean’s responsibilities fall under the SIRC. They are assigned to “develop[ing] [a] communication plan that dovetails with emergency response plans for Counseling, and Housing and Community Life,” according to Willamette’s EMPAH. It also outlines what that area is responsible for during and after an emergency. On the whole, Willamette’s emergency response plan has a few set directives, but is ultimately a set of guidelines for dealing with any emergency.

ASSESSING THE PREPAREDNESS PLAN Willamette is not currently prepared for any specific hazard, nor does it intend to be. In a Nov. 11 lecture, “Willamette University’s Emergency Management Plan: The Successes and Challenges,” Director of Campus Safety Ross Stout said the University would rely on our community partners to serve as responders to disaster. These community partners include the fire and police station, Salem hospital, etc. According to Stout, budgetary restrictions and a lack of resources make mitigating for individual types of disasters illogical. There is an on-campus supply of emergency generators, food, water and other equipment, but it is all located in one central location, according to Stout. While this allows for easy access for those who know about it, should something happen to that building, it would make the supply inaccessible and negate the good it does from having it at all. However, there are many ways that Willamette is more prepared than it may initially seem, even beyond the All Hazards Plan. According to Stout, Goudy has approximately a three day supply of food, which would serve three meals a day to both the Willamette student population, and greater community. The Outdoor Program has camping supplies, which can serve as emergency shelters should buildings fail. There are students that could serve as first responders. Both the general structure of the University and the All Hazards Plan enable an emergency response plan to be easily implemented. The hierarchy, putting building officers in academic buildings and Resident Advisors in residential buildings in charge of those respective buildings, allows those who hold those positions to be trained as Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) leaders, as well as to be CPR, AED and First Aid Certified. However, there are also shortcomings within Willamette’s preparedness. In the event of a large scale disaster, the campus would likely be unable to rely on community partners, would would be equally affected. Further, the University is simply not prepared for the effects a large scale disaster might bring. For example, a magnitude nine megathrust earthquake has the highest CPRI (calculated risk priority index) value for Salem, according to the City of Salem Natural Hazards Mitigation plan. This means it is the hazard that would have the greatest impact and largest extent, and serves as a high priority for local and county emergency planning. The State of Oregon recommends two weeks of emergency supplies prepared in the event of an M9 megathrust earthquake (colloquially known as “The Big One”). Unfortunately, Willamette does not even have preparations for the previously recommended 72 hours of supplies. Because living on campus is required for CLA students’ first two years, a large percentage of the campus buildings are residential. Many of these buildings have not been remodeled recently or remodeled at all, which means they are not up to building codes required to withstand a medium sized earthquake, much less a M9 earthquake. Should the buildings fail, students have no established plan for relocation.Additionally, the relied upon community connections would likely be unavailable, as the destruction from an earthquake of that size would likely render many essential services unavailable. These services were a key part of Willamette’s All Hazards plan, which further increases the need for trained first responders on campus. This shows that smaller scale hazards are comprehensively managed by the All Hazards plan, but large scale disasters need further planning.

Information courtesy of November 11 lecture by Ross Stout
Renovation and building dates of campus buildings, showing that many have not been renovated in years.

MITIGATION SOLUTIONS There are many ways that Willamette can increase its disaster preparedness. One of these is redoing the current disaster preparedness plan to include a way to deal with large scale disasters that might not allow for support from our community partners. In some sense, that is already being taken care of. According to Stout, the committee that oversees Willamette’s risk preparedness plan is getting new members,who might have a fresh take on disaster preparedness. Preparing for disasters does not have to happen on an individual level. For example, there is some crossover between what’s necessary when preparing for a fire or an earthquake. One of the ways this can happen is through making disaster preparedness drills more frequent and more encompassing than just fire drills. In times of crisis, it is much easier for people to act if they have a semblance of a plan of action beforehand. While fire drills are often seen as tedious, in the event of a fire, there would be little to no confusion about what needs to happen. The same can be said with other disasters. Fear is a paralytic, and increasing the amount of drills for other disasters to even a few times a year could help save lives. Training students and staff as first responders would be another way to help increase preparedness for any hazard. This is beneficial for several reasons. Those that are trained can help give medical care before more highly trained medical personnel can arrive. It is also relatively inexpensive. Further, it would be even more beneficial to give professors paid First Aid training days. Most are at the University for much longer than the four years that students typically spend. This is also much cheaper than retrofitting a building, which costs thousands of dollars. First response training would be useful in any disaster, rather than just one. According to Greg Walsh, the city of Salem Emergency Preparedness Manager, Salem has a program in which after completing 21 hours of training, one can become a Community Emergency Response Team member. This program trains community members to become leaders in the event of an emergency. This provides trainees with the skills necessary to take charge until someone with more training can respond. Around campus, there is a noticeable lack of medical kits. The only areas that have them are where they are considered essential, like the Kaneko pool or at Sparks Fitness Center, because of its exercise equipment. Placing a medical kit in each building, or even one on each floor, would give the ability for higher level medical care to be given by those trained to use the kits. Training building officers and RAs would evenly disperse the training across campus. It would also provide supplies to people who, according to Stout, were given the responsibility because of the large amount of time they spend in that building. One challenge in the way of these measures is finding funding for them. Many of these options are inexpensive, but funding is still needed. Willamette’s Green Fund is an untapped source for disaster mitigation. While it seems that preparedness may not fall in the realm of the Green Fund, sustainability is a key component of the Fund, and adding these things increases the sustainability of the University itself. This paper is based on the research done on the ENVS 491 senior capstone class, focusing on the effects of M9 earthquakes in Oregon.


No comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.