September is an Opportunity to Prepare and Help Others

September is National Preparedness Month; an opportunity to assess and improve readiness for all manner of incidents. With the recent disasters of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma fresh in our minds, it can be easy to think that it is only necessary to prepare for the catastrophic events. Though it is important to consider those kinds of events, there are many other things to consider when examining personal and organizational readiness. At Waubonsee we regularly look closely at all of our systems of safety, prevention, and preparedness.

The college’s Emergency Management and Safety Team conducts risk assessments that identify the various hazards to the people, facilities, and operations of the college. The team’s vigilance in this, and their partnerships with local and regional emergency management programs, ensures that the appropriate resources are applied to reduce risks as much as possible. Our full-time Campus Police officers have a combined 247 years of law enforcement experience that they expertly apply to keep our students, staff, and faculty safe.

As part of our continuous improvement process, we are rewriting our incident communication plan to ensure that the entire Waubonsee community is informed about how to respond in the event of an incident. This includes refining our communication processes to ensure that accurate information is available at the right time to the right people. We have completed a pilot program of building-specific training that ensures all employees know how to react if there is an event in or near their work space.

Readiness is not just being prepared to respond to an incident. Readiness also involves being aware enough to prevent an incident. We want everyone at Waubonsee to be prepared to and comfortable enough to keep a situation from escalating. To that end, we are renaming our Crisis Action Team to Campus Action Team. We want anyone—students, faculty and staff alike—to be able to raise an issue or concern and be confident in knowing that the issue will examined by the college’s administration, even if it is not a crisis.

As an example, at the end of September, all four campuses will host Clothesline Project events. This is an effort to raise awareness of sexual violence on college campuses and in society.

This awareness empowers students to take actions to prevent this violent crime.

And while we are studying our own preparedness, we are pitching in to help others by organizing fundraising efforts to help students and faculty at Alvin Community College near Houston and will be identifying partnerships in Florida. We know that even the best preparedness plans are sometimes insufficient and we want to do what we can to help other learners and educators with a mission similar to ours get back on their feet and continue on their academic journey.

I encourage everyone to take some time to assess their personal readiness. There are many resources available to help you with this. If everyone is better prepared for a personal or local incident then we are all better prepared to assist with a larger catastrophe, if needed.