The COOP was initiated after last year’s S.A.F.E.R. (Schools of nursing Aligned For Emergency Responsiveness) conference co-sponsored by Northwestern State’s College of Nursing and Dillard University’s Division of Nursing.
“We found resources at the conference and formed a task force to look at schools affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav to learn what their needs were after the event,” said Dr. Pamela B. Simmons, professor and head of the Department of Nursing, who oversaw the development of the COOP. “They were able to share resources in the Department of Public Health, Office of Emergency Preparedness and other institutions.”
Simmons and other Nursing and Allied Health faculty created policies, guidelines and an administrative hierarchy in the event of any situation that might disrupt normal operations. They worked with Tammy Pezant, Northwestern State’s environmental health and safety officer, so the manual follows the framework of the University plan to prevent, prepare, respond and recover, with flexibility to accommodate contingencies of different situations.
Simmons and her colleagues learned the two biggest challenges for south Louisiana schools disrupted by the hurricanes were loss of contact and loss of access to records.
“They talked most about the inability to figure out where people were when personnel had literally scattered all over the country,” Simmons said. “Second, was the loss of student records. They did not have access to records or information for students who were trying to get enrolled elsewhere.”
In response, the College now provides portable USB flash drives to all faculty so that syllabi and important information is accessible, even if the campus is not. Also stored are cell phone and contact information for all faculty as well as the COOP.
“We have everyone upload their important course papers and materials and anything necessary to get them set up elsewhere and we will update that every semester,” Simmons said.
Simmons and colleagues also developed checklists, resources and lists of important phone numbers should faculty be faced with bomb threats, lock downs, evacuations, fires, elevator malfunctions, flooding, release of hazardous materials, terrorist activity, suspicious packages, utility failure, theft or severe weather. The plan will help coordinate efforts between university administrators, safety officers and other emergency personnel. The manual also addresses issues related to students with medical issues, life-threatening emergencies and procedures to follow for emergencies related to a student’s family.
Input was gathered through workshops with faculty and staff from all Northwestern State College of Nursing and Allied Health facilities, as well as the NSU Child and Family Network, which operates in the Warrington Building at the College’s Shreveport Nursing Center.
The manual also includes instructions on how to register for Northwestern State’s Purple Alert, a notification system for all university students, faculty and staff that notifies individuals of emergency situations via e-mail, cell phone, local telephone or text.
According to Simmons, Nursing and Allied Health faculty will soon utilize a device worn around the neck that will act as a voice amplification device as well as an alert. Not only will the device eliminate the need for microphones in large classrooms but faculty will be able to alert the rest of the campus of a developing emergency.
“It will allow the faculty to communicate throughout the building from classrooms that don’t have telephones,” Simmons explained. “Lots of schools are beginning to implement these devices.
As stated in the COOP manual, “The basic emergency procedures are designed to protect lives and personnel through the effective use of university and community resources.”
“It gives us a leg up,” Simmons said. “And we hope we never have to use the plan.”