News

President Pelton: Emergency Preparedness

The events at Virginia Tech continue to cause many of us to contemplate the enormous impact of tragedy. As the images of grieving community members and families are seen, we may also see a picture of the vulnerabilities that we all face as human beings, and as a community. We know that each member of our community contributes to the rich personal and cultural experience that makes Willamette a special place. We understand the loss that they feel.

In response to the profoundly tragic events at Virginia Tech, we have begun a process to review, improve and strengthen our Emergency Response Plan under the leadership of our Emergency Management Team. Coincidentally, the University recently purchased new door-access software, to be installed in early summer, allowing us to lock down buildings. We have a team working on a system for mass-notification by email if an incident arises. A third effort is underway to explore how we would sound an audible signal throughout campus to notify everyone if an incident occurs.

While we have confidence in our ability to respond, it is worth the effort to examine how we might do even better.

For now, I'd like to offer information that may be helpful in answering some of the questions that we have received over the past couple of days.

Whenever you perceive that an incident is a threat to people's personal safety, we request that you immediately call 6911. Campus safety will immediately enlist the help of police, fire and EMS providers. Campus Safety staffing levels have the capacity to assist in any situation with competence, but Willamette is not staffed to be the primary response to a large incident. Our University responders are trained to communicate our needs clearly, and solicit a larger support team from the University and from resources outside the University.

In the event of an emergency like that at Virginia Tech, Campus Safety has the responsibility to notify the University's Emergency Management Team that is largely made up of senior level administrators and campus directors. This team assembles and determines what additional campus resources are needed to provide assistance to those in need. They also may notify the campus and outside community of the status of the situation that we are working to resolve.

It is clear that communication is an important part of handling a crisis and we see this as an area in which we can improve. The office of Communications, Campus Safety and WITS continually work on protocols for updating the community through WEB and phone technology. It will continue to be a priority to provide clear and informed communication.

I would encourage you to look at the Emergency Response Plan that is available on-line at http://www.willamette.edu/dept/safety/emergency/guide. This plan assists with understanding how the University may respond in a variety of emergency situations. The Campus Directory and Emergency Reference Guide, commonly called the "Fussers Guide" is annually updated, and available to all students and employees. If you do not have a copy of this near your phone, please contact Campus Safety for a copy.

Willamette University is precious and worth protecting by all reasonable means. Our work encourages openness and we enjoy freedoms that are very difficult to duplicate in other parts of our society. Thank you for your contribution to building this caring community. We all share a responsibility to protect these freedoms and our community and guard against those who would disrupt them.

Best regards,

Lee Pelton

04-19-2007