Are we prepared for crisis? Plan exists, but who knows the drill?

James Vaughn

What if a tornado set its sights on the university?

What if the campus began shaking traumatically?

What if a student were to come face-to-face with a gunman?

The above scenarios are ones Associate Professor of Geology James Durbin and Public Safety Assistant Director Stephen Bequette think students and faculty should be asking themselves.

For the past two weeks, The Shield has revealed what the concerns are on campus. In this week’s final installment of the “Are we prepared for crisis” series, The Shield takes a look at the plan. 

Potential man-made disasters and natural disasters pose concerns on USI’s campus.

Bequette said the university does have a plan – the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).

“It is a living document,” he said. “It’s always under review.”

He said the document is currently being reworked because of a national push to do so.

Bequette also prepares emergency operations plans for every major event the university hosts, such as fall commencement, for which he prepared a 20-page “what-if” document.

The documents describe each event in detail and outline everyone’s role if an emergency were to occur from public safety officers to the fire department to student workers.

Bequette meets with all of the ushers and emergency personnel an hour before each major event to go over the plan.

He said there is a flow chart in place for upper management, which lists what each individual is responsible for if an emergency were to occur.

The Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office does not have a USI specific plan for emergency situations.

“We have a verbal agreement and understanding with them,” Bequette said.

He is confident in deputies’s familiarity with the campus because the university allows them to train in its facilities.

“You’d be surprised how much these incidents run themselves,” Bequette said.

Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Communications Kindra Strupp agrees.

She said a banner at the top of the university’s website relays important information to students and faculty, as it did when the campus closed Dec. 6, due to the winter storm.

From a communications standpoint, social media is a great tool as well, she said.

“It’s unfortunate that these are the times we’re living in, but we are,” Strupp said. “For any campus, or any community or any building, it’s a matter of trying to be as prepared as you can, knowing that you can’t prepare for everything. There are always going to be things that change and circumstances that are beyond our control.”

She said higher administration tries to share what they learn across campus.

“USI is in an enviable position. There have just been very few real emergencies. But we need to not get complacent. These are important times that we’re living in where we see these things happening all around us.”

She was not aware of the EOP document.

“What we need to do as a function is clear to us,” Strupp said. “When unforeseen things happen, people mobilize. Our senior administration would certainly get together and determine what roles need to be done.”

Individuals need to prepare themselves, Bequette said.

“The lone ranger’s not going to save you. The Calvary’s not going to come get you,” he said. “These things are over in seconds, so you have to assume some amount of responsibility for your personal safety.”