Case Study: How the University of Wyoming Ensured its Emergency Response Plan Didn’t Just Stay on the Shelf

CASE STUDY

How the University of Wyoming
Ensured its Emergency Response Plan
Didn't Just Stay on the Shelf

How did the University of Wyoming and Casper College prepare for an effective response to the tragic crossbow shooting incident on Casper College campus in 2012?

wyomingU

Challenge

The University of Wyoming needed to move its emergency response plan from draft to implementation.

“In 2010, we had put together a draft of an emergency response plan for the university, and it had already gone through a number of iterations. But it never felt done, it never felt like something we had full confidence in implementing.” – Mark Collins, Associate VP for Administrative Operations, U of Wyoming

 

Learning

U of Wyoming sent a team of three (from university communications, student affairs, and environmental health and safety) to the 2010 Academic Impressions Crisis Communications Summit. At the event, they:

  • Compared plans and received feedback from peers at diverse institutions.
  • Reviewed plans prepared by a panel of experts, including:
Learning from Experts Who Have Been Through the Fire

“Cindy Lawson walked us through, step by step, how communications were handled at the Texas A&M Bonfire tragedy. It was incredible; people got emotional as she walked us through it. So many of her comments and so much of her advice remains with me to this day, and I weave her comments and ideas into the courses I teach on public administration—such as her comments to the president of Texas A&M at the time:

‘Whatever happens, we’re going to do the right thing. We’re going to go all the way for our students and our stakeholders; we're going to focus less on what will concern our attorneys and our insurance underwriters and more on what we know is the right thing for our students and their families. For example, for some of the funerals, we’re going to load up planes and cars and go to those and allow our students to attend those important memorials. We aren’t going to worry about cost; we’re going to make sure we do the right thing.’

It was an awesomely powerful presentation.”

- Mark Collins, U of Wyoming

Action

Back on campus, the team took the feedback they received at the AI conference and finalized emergency plans that included:

  • A clear chain of command protocol.
  • Reporting lines.
  • Evacuation plans for every floor of every building on campus.
  • Designated building coordinators to assist in the event of an evacuation.
  • Steps for drilling the plan regularly on the U of Wyoming campus.

 

Results

Thanks to what they learned at the conference, the University of Wyoming has not only implemented a fully developed emergency response plan but has also:

  • Shared its plan as a template for state agencies and colleges throughout Wyoming.
  • Conducted exercises with local colleges to help engage their faculty, staff, and students in emergency preparedness.

U of Wyoming’s template and on-campus exercises helped neighboring Casper College coordinate crisis communications and response to the tragic crossbow shooting incident on their campus in December 2012.

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