Evolution of emergency operations strategies
Akers, Christopher Ryan
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Crisis response is a function of university administration that is often overlooked within student affairs divisions across the country. However, due to recent events on campuses and the post-9/11 world in which we live, university officials are constantly reviewing and placing a strong emphasis on developing and implementing their crisis response procedures. In today’s college environment, university administrators must understand the importance of all elements of a crisis response plan, including the structure and the process. A single occurrence of trauma on a campus can have a lasting impact on students, faculty, and university staff members. However, crisis is often overlooked as the complex range of issues that our institutions face increases. Campus crises affect many constituents in a variety of ways, many of which can be debilitating to academic progress and the well-being of individuals. Divisions of student affairs as well as the overall institutions attempt to counteract the negative effects of crisis by developing and implementing efficient crisis response plans. Student affairs staff are the likely first responders to many crises on campus due their daily proximity and inclusion in the lives of students. In fact, student affairs staff have been indoctrinated into student safety issues since the beginning of the field through student discipline issues linked to deans of men and women. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to analyze the crisis response policies, strategies, and programs of different types of institutions as well as to explore which elements of critical incident management structure and process are and are not being implemented across these different types of institutions. Fifty-one participating institutions completed a quantitative crisis response survey and qualitative phone interview. Findings indicated that institutions and student affairs divisions held different perspectives on crises and prepared for crises in various ways. Crisis response team membership was consistent across the sample. However, training methods and protocol evaluation incorporated a number of different styles. Student affairs involvement in constituents’ needs and response partnerships varied across the sample. Institutional type, student enrollment size, and geographic location both positively and negatively influenced crisis response plans on campus.