According to Zdziarski (2006), a crisis is an event, which is often sudden or unexpected, that disrupts the normal operations of the institution or its educational mission, and threatens the well-being of personnel, property, financial resources, and/or reputation of the institution. On a college campus, crisis situations generally fall into three categories:
- Critical Incident – a situation that affects a specific segment or subgroup (ex.: a fire in a residence hall room, an isolated student death).
- Campus Emergency – a situation that disrupts orderly operations of the college (ex.: a campus power outage, meningitis or other active disease scenario).
- Disaster – a situation that disrupts orderly operations of the college as well as those of the surrounding community (ex.: an active shooter on campus, some severe weather scenarios).These terms will be used throughout this document. Appendix A provides an additional list of defined terms.
The basis for this ERP is an all-hazard approach to managing emergencies and crises. Philosophically, an all-hazard approach works from the premise that it is impossible to articulate responses specifically tailored to each type of crisis that might arise. However, all crisis and emergency situations typically require immediate initial steps or response. Since these situations can be unpredictable - and may take place when key staff is not immediately available for response - an all-hazards response plan provides guidance and clarity for initial steps for response to a variety of crisis situations. From this, additional plans can then be constructed for more specific situations (such as establishing department-specific protocols).
This plan is also based upon the principles of emergency management and of the Incident Command System in that it assigns roles and responsibilities to university personnel. It also allows for the empowerment of faculty and staff (and in some cases students) to respond in roles beyond the scope of their traditional role in the event of an emergency or crisis situation.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the State of Missouri and St. Louis County Emergency Management authorities, and several college and universities have all adopted implementation of all-hazards approaches to emergency and crisis response. The following plan is consistent with this concept, while allowing for modification for the particular unique features and challenges of responding to emergency and crisis situations at Webster University.