There are plenty of reasons to complete a building emergency action plan.
First, completing the plan is required by law, and therefore, it's a high campus priority.
Second, it's a great way to meet everyone in your building.
And third, the life you save by completing a plan could be your own.
"Considering the nature and frequency of events that have been occurring at schools throughout the country, it's safe to say we're living in a different world these days," said Todd Short, a U. of I. police lieutenant and the director of emergency planning in the Division of Public Safety.
"We all need to know what to do during a crisis situation."
Short and a small group of public safety employees have been charged with ensuring campus compliance with federal and state law by working with various campus groups to complete individual Building Emergency Action Plans. Once a plan is completed, Short is responsible for training employees who work in the building on the contents of their respective plan.
So far, representatives for approximately 180 buildings have submitted a plan.
"That's not a bad number," Short said, "but with 450 occupied buildings on campus, there are still a lot of plans that need to be completed."
The numbers are concerning enough to Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise that last week she made a plea to the Senate Executive Committee, asking members to get the word out about the importance of the plans in securing campus during an emergency situation.
"So far we've gotten very little buy-in," she said, noting that two other Illinois universities recently were subjected to a surprise state inspection set up to test their readiness. She said fines for non-compliance could reach $10,000 per day for each person on campus not covered by a plan.
Wise said that last year safety officials urged professors in a campus email to include a classroom message making students aware of protective actions they could take in the event of an emergency.
"We asked them to read it before class but didn't get a lot of cooperation," she said. "Now we are going to insist that this be done. This is serious; I urge you to convey to your people how important this is."
She said she would be delivering a similar message urging greater participation at an upcoming Council of Deans meeting.
"We understand this is a huge undertaking and that people are busy," Short said. "But it's not just that it's a legal requirement -
it's the right thing to do and it's something that could save lives."
Under the initiative, Short and his team create the plan alongside a building's employees, noting strategic locations in which to gather or hazards to avoid in an emergency situation. Once the plan is completed, employees in the building are asked to attend a one-hour training session that emphasizes actions to take during different types of emergency situations. Training sessions are tailored to a building's individual action plan.
Short said the department has completed 78 additional plans for campus certified housing, though that number is not included in the 450 campus building count.
"We feel like we're heading down the right path," he said, "but we'd really like to see an increase in participation."
Once a plan is completed, regulations call for it to be updated annually. Short said the annual update is relatively easy and employees only need to be trained once on their plan, unless the employee's responsibilities in the plan change or there is a substantial change in the operational aspects of the plan.
"Once the initial plan is completed and submitted it gets much easier," he said.
Short said the police department is confident it will obtain additional resources to ensure campus compliance is met as quickly as possible.