With the backdrop of a global pandemic (and a suspected case of COVID-19 at George Mason--which turned out to be negative), this episode explores the way that registrars support the work of the emergency manager at their institution. We’ll get a glimpse into the public safety and emergency response world, and talk about ways that the registrar’s mission aligns with that of emergency managers. While not specifically about COVID-19, we will talk about prevention of, planning for, and responses to various emergency situations, including infectious disease outbreaks.
The vast majority of work done by emergency managers is focused on the prevention of and planning for emergencies, and for providing training and resources to assist with campus readiness. (Also, participating on committees.)
Registrars play a critical role in supporting the emergency management process at an institution--including during planning, response, and recovery.
Emergency managers are great people to know and registrars should cultivate that relationship *before* an emergency happens.
References and Additional Reading:
National Preparedness Leadership Initiative
CDC Prevention Guidelines
Introduction to Emergency Management, by Haddow, Bullock, and Coppola
The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes, and Why, by Amanda Ripley
you're listening to. For the record, a registrar podcast. I'm Dr David Harris, executive director safety in emergency management at George Mason University, and this is emergency management in you. Hello and welcome to another episode of For the Record, a registrar podcast sponsored by Acro on your host, Doug McKenna. When we have a very timely episode this time, I guess that really all depends on when you're listening to this. Anyway, if you've been paying attention to the news at all recently, you've heard of the novel Corona virus that originated in Wuhan, China, and has now spread around the world with confirmed cases in China, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, France, Germany, the United States and Canada, among others. The virus has so far follow the pattern of previous pandemic illnesses, murders and stars, for example, and other contagious infectious diseases. So we live in a global society and that global interconnectedness can leave us susceptible to outbreaks of this nature. This episode is not about the Covad 19 virus, specifically, although admittedly it was the impetus for this episode, it gives an opportunity to contemporaneously document and memorialize steps that are more generally thought exercises. So our topic today addresses the ways the registrar participates in and contributes to campus. Emergency response plans will be joined in a few minutes by George Mason University's director of public safety and emergency response, Dr David Ferris, who has had an exceptionally busy month or so so right up at the top, though Let's level set. I am not a doctor. Any medical advice delivered during this episode has been gathered from reliable Internet sources like the CDC or the Mayo Clinic. But your results may vary during cold and flu season. It's important to adhere to best practices for avoiding the spread of germs. Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Wash your hands frequently throughout the day. Avoid rubbing your eyes or putting your hands in your mouth or nose. Use hand sanitizer. Cough into your bent elbow, not into the palm of your hand. And if you're sick, stay home tow. Avoid exposing others to your germs. Encourage your staff to do the same. Encourage your faculty to do the same and your students to do the same right now. Here in the United States, you're about a 1,000,000 times more likely to be exposed to the flu, then DeKoven 19. But let's all try to reduce the spread of infectious diseases by using common sense and good hygiene. So now, on to the topic at hand. Let's start with some foundational principles. Your office should have a continuity of operations plan. If you don't have one, you should reach out to your public safety or emergency management team on campus and talk through how to set one up. We'll talk a little bit more about continuity of operations plans. Coops toward the end. Public safety or emergency management is one of the many groups on campus with whom registrars should have a very strong and positive working relationship. Our respective missions intersect, and we frequently worked together on events planning, whether academic or otherwise, and to coordinate on a variety of items, including the class schedule in academic buildings so they can be sure the building is unlocked. For example, public safety in emergency management are a helpful team toe. Have some contact with. So reach out. Go for coffee if you don't know someone in that capacity at your campus. All right, So speaking off, let's meet Dr David Ferris, the executive director of safety and emergency management at George Mason University. David, welcome to the podcast.
Thank you very much.
Thanks very much for taking the time to chat with us today about the ways that registrar's offices can support safety and emergency management efforts at an institution. And so, first off, what do emergency managers do? What are your responsibilities here at Mason?
Absolutely. I can't speak on behalf of all emergency managers, but given my experience, I'll try to make This is general as possible so that everyone gets a sense of what most emergency managers do in institutions of higher education. So, um, there's, you know, famous had a couple different faces of emergency management. Generally, there's about five, right, and I like to walk to reach those five phases because it's a really broad scope of responsibilities and more often that we tend to get focused on just that response phase. And unfortunately, a lot of our effort goes into the prepare preparedness prevention of mitigation phases of emergency management. So that first phase is prevention. So that's ways that we identify within the institution to prevent things from recurring in the first place. And maybe one of the best ways to think about this is threat assessment committees and institutions of higher education. How do we identify those individuals that need assistance provide care to them and the help that they need to prevent harmful things from happening to them or others at our institutions? Other, more generic examples are things like fire suppression and alarm systems, infection control procedures, which I imagine many institutions are talking about right now with the with the emergence of Corona virus. So those are examples of revenge preventative steps. The next is preparedness. And honestly, I probably spend the bulk of my time in this phase of emergency management, and that is the training. The resource is the planning and the exercises that we implement, design and implement to help our community be prepared for an emergency if it should occur. So under things like training, for example, active threat training that's either in person or online. Many institutions now we're creating videos, so that's and peruse those on the Web. Find those that maybe something interesting. Institutions are interesting and doing interested in doing rather, we conduct emergency preparedness training workshops where we sit down departments and talk through the various scenarios that might occur on campus. And I imagine many other emergency managers are doing the same. Obviously, we conduct fire drills and on a regular schedule we participate in regional. And this is true throughout the nation. There's often opportunity to participate in regional earthquake or tornado drills. We do those as well. Those are optional. Obviously, we don't shut down the entire institution. Participate in those you do, Sonia. Yes, exactly. I can imagine what kind of headache that would cause for you and your audience appreciate very much. We conduct emergency operations, group training. We can talk about that more. But how do we onboard those critical personnel, They're gonna be part of an institutional emergency response. And then we're also identifying this key personnel in reviewing their responsibilities and emergency plans. And that can happen in an institutional level or at the department level. That's the training component that then we move into. The resource is part of this, which is what the resource is we're developing for the community so they can access those resource is preferably before the emergency occurs and be familiar with armor into response procedures. So, as obviously documented emergency response procedures that we have either posted online, which we do in poster form at posted inconspicuously patients throughout campus we have these handy pocket guides that we've produced a custom made.
I have one of my death.
They're the most popular resource. We thought of reason goto a nap, and we tried that we had a very low adoption rate and come to find out every once in print, which is great. We've developed shelter area signage for severe weather shelter locations and worked with department to identify the shelter locations, building evacuation, signing locations of AIDS, poll stations, fire suppression equipment. Things like that written emergency plans, as I mentioned. But we also support instant other departments and doing their own departmental planning if they need to go above and beyond. The resource is we have are the templates we provide. We allow them to create their own plan, will work with them on that to make sure it's in sync with everything that we recommend. Um, some of the other things that we do that people might not be aware of is we work with our police and local fire department, too. Create alphanumeric door signs on exterior doors. Help emergency responders. So 61 exactly. So it's Soma and that that that's probably the most popular things we've done because it helps people. Aye, aye, find the, um, the door that they're supposed to go to. So I found that students use them for food delivery more than anything else, and then are obviously our first responders like it so they can identify where their colleagues might be or need assistance in the event of an emergency. So that's sort of some of the resource is, and there's many, many more out there. And there's I will give emergency managers as we tend to be pretty creative and a lot of resources air customized to the each institution, which I think is really important. Absolutely, because it depends on how receptive audiences to each of these technologies. Exactly. So then we get into the planning part, and we maintain a number of plans. I'm I'm a big fan of planning because of the process. Um, the plans themselves can become obsolete in some cases, but the process of planning is what's most valuable. So we have plans based around a number of different potential conditions that might exist on campus. I try to stay away from specific scenarios on Lee because it's very difficult to anticipating for everything correct. So we've taken all hazards approach. It's a common term used in emergency management. And as a matter of fact, the CDC a couple years back had a zombie apocalypse exercise. And their point was, we have plans that are designed for everything. If we if we can deal with the zombie apocalypse, we can deal with something like a Corona virus, for example. And we actually learned this sort of the hard way in 2011 when we had an earthquake. We had not planned for an earthquake to colonel the Virginia very rare, and but our process worked, and so I'm very much a process. We needed emergency planners. But that being said, there are some plans we have to maintain, and so we obviously maintain an emergency operations plan. That's the structure the institution adopts. Whenever we're in an emergency, we have various emergency support functions that that are an ex is essentially to that emergency operations plan or GOP that identify specific responsibilities of the of the positions and units that are represented in our emergency operations group. For example, what would parking in transportation do in a crisis? What were they responsible for providing shuttle service? Things like that, Um, and then we actually have emergency support functions that I'm sorry we actually have emergency annexes to our emergency operations plan that define in general terms what we would do to shelter our population on campus, how we might evacuate campus. The service is that we can provide to those folks that have special needs, what we do in the event of a death on campus. If there's protests or civil disturbance on campus, how do we as in it's just generally respond to that. And so those are important because those issues we can anticipate and we need some guidance for that. We also have a communicable disease plan, which we may talk about later. Imagine everyone is either working on theirs or is knocking the dust off of an old plan. We have training exercise plans. So how do we tend to shepherd the institution through the next couple of years of training around various topics? I'll give you an example. We're focusing this year on climate change isn't in years past. We've looked at cyber Security. Last year happened communicable disease, which was interesting. We've also exactly active threats. So we've looked at all these things and what we tend to dio around the training aspect is we hold a seminar in the spring to introduce our executives in our emergency operations group to a topic. So we'll have a 1 to 2 hour seminar with typically a professional from outside the institution this year actually partnered with some faculty to talk through climate change. So, for example, a couple years ago we brought in vice president for Microsoft. Talk about cybersecurity, and, of course, there were able to bring this wealth of knowledge to us and case studies to help illuminate the problem. We take that information, and we turn it into a discussion based exercise, the tabletop exercise that we hold with the executives and Emergency Operations group and then, depending on the scenario, it's kinda hard to do this with cyber security will hold a functional exercise, will actually have people move around and execute the procedures they have documented in their plans. And that's that's the third phase of that. We try to replicate that process every year or that series of exercises every year, which we found to be very effective, and it keeps things sort of fresh and new. We assist as I mentioned, Department of Individual Planning, and then we have some state mandated plans, were party to a couple emergency proceed emergency plans rather for the motor Virginia area and were a party to that sweet. We maintain those plans as well. So just a general snaps of planning we have. We have quite a few more, but that's probably enough to talk about this morning. Um, and then we get into the response rights. We have a response. A cz well, so one of things that we manage and this is dependent on the institution. Sometimes it's the communications office. Sometimes it to the police. We manage our emergency notification system here at Mason. That actually takes quite a bit of effort, depending on how it's configured and the administrative procedures, and we've got that streamline now or doesn't requires much work. But that in itself is a regular job. Responding to enquiries, making sure all 56,000 users are satisfied with that service and responding concerns around their accountant. Things like that, Um, I think the the most fun part of my job is managing Armor Inch operations group. And so that's facilitating that group when they get together and to come up with an institutional response and make sure addressing all the various concerns, because each one of the emergency Operation Operations group members has unique customers and eating unique needs. And so how do we collaborate to come up with an institutional response that meets all those needs? And that's and I also love work with everybody in our rooms. We have about 15 different groups that are represented by three individuals, and that's important because we want to make sure that in the event someone's on vacation, they've got backup person that can come to the Emergency Operations Center and represent their respective department. So those groups get together. And then during an emergency. The EOE G is primarily responsible for gathering information from public messaging. Um, and that's that's a primary duty. But most important, we're trying to provide support to the Internet commander and the incident response structure that's on scene, and so I want a difference between the emergency operations group and in their actual response effort. The response effort, in my opinion, is really tactical. And that's your first responders. Your law enforcement fire AMs, maybe other federal or state agencies that are on scene on the ground, either in harm's way and controlling that perimeter and everything inside the emergency operations route becomes sort of operational level of the organization that's providing support to everybody out everybody on scene. But then everybody outside that perimeter questions concerns relocation of individuals, materials, information, physical assistance that might be needed to respond to that. We're providing that level and then so, in addition to providing support, sort of down the chain were also providing information and recommendations up the change without and out exactly were buried in that middle later, the tactical response on in the field operations in the middle and then, of course, strategic at the top. And that's our executive group are Executive council in our case. So that's that's what we're really focused on is that emergency operations group level? Um, we're also in the process of providing support anybody that has plans at the institution to make sure that they're being implemented and getting the support information they need to execute those plans, according that could be continue operations plans. It could be individual relocation plans or communications plans that they didn't implement talks about the coop in a minute. That issue? Yes, absolutely. So that such kind of the general and then it all depends on the circumstances. Sometimes that's a two hour event, sometimes the multi day event. So I've been here until four o'clock that morning. A bunch of my favorite colleagues, you know, hanging out during a utility failure that looked like it wasn't gonna get itself resolved. We've had hurricanes come through with coastal storms and things like that that we had on site presence for multiple days to make sure we had support on the institution. Um, we've been fortunate Mason, but I think we have the plans procedures contend with, Hopefully, anything that comes our way, we're getting there. Let's assume something bad does happen. Then we moved to the recovery phase. There's a couple of key things we do around recovery, and that's post incident when the scene is secured and we're starting to assess the damage. We then look at county operations. And that's how we're gonna maintain those critical functions. Not the entire institution, but just the things we deem most critical in the event that we have a reduction of work force that could be because people were ill or, God forbid, injured. We've lost a facility, right? A CZ utility failure of fire. Severe weather damages, a building that otherwise renders it uninhabitable. So then we start looking at those issues and figure out how to move those folks with a lot of assistance from that department because we only know as much as they share with us, um, to get them the support they need the relocate them tow appropriate work, location. What have you that you Yuji is hoping with that as well? And then another big thing is community assistance planning. And that is what's the support we're gonna provide for the students, faculty, staff and visitors that impacted by this event. And this doesn't get nearly as much attention as it should. So when we first started looking at community assistance planning and at the time I was a new emergency manager and very naive, I said, I can't speak to this intelligently let me bring someone in. And so we actually engaged Northern Illinois University and a couple of folks that were there that came on after the unfortunate shooting they had there on Valentine's Day and asked them to walk us through what that community assistance looks like. It was a 45 year effort, multimillion dollar effort to provide the assistance that community need to recover from that because there's often a transition in the institutional culture there, as any number of things that need to be managed after that happens. And it's setting the vision in helping the student body recover from that traumatic experience. It's something that not many folks think about, but we will be involved in that emergency for many, many years, in some cases after the emergency. But we tend to focus on just that 5 to 10 minutes. We really need to be thinking better around Long Term House institution prepared for something like this, a sustained recovery effort. So we have a community distance plan, Um, and we'll continue to work on that because it's important and
then we get into the
mitigation part so hopefully we're learning from these experiences and we're looking at things and saying, you know what? If we did this, we could either prevent it from happening, which is that prevention step, which I started with, or we could mitigate the impact of that event on campus. So if we have repeated flooding on campus, hopefully, at some point we're going, you're gonna look at that. We should probably fix the stream bed. We're starting. Look at climate change for that reason, because we're starting to think Well, you know what? If we start having really hot days three or four consecutive days over 105 degrees, we know talking their facilities, management, folks, we could have some real issues with infrastructure and being able to keep our buildings cool. What does that mean? How are we gonna mitigate that impact? And if it does occur? What? What steps we're gonna take? So that's that's the mitigation phase. And we have a plan where we met with all the members of our branch operations group to say, Listen what your what? Your biggest concerns and why? And then if that's your concern, how how do you want us to mitigate that? And so we're in the process of gathering information. So we go, the administration say, Listen, we've identified Let's a communicable disease is our number one issue on campus. Here are some technologies and some procedures and processes and investments we can make to prevent this from becoming a real emergency on campus. If we take these steps, that's mitigation plan. And then lastly, we're on a bunch of committees. Obviously, that happens to be my my subject of my dissertation in my current book. So I love committees and I'm on a bunch of them. I might be
the only guy that loves committees, but I
love him. I absolutely, they're fascinating. Amazingly hell, no, I know, but so I get invited. In fact, I just got invited to another committee to explore on educational program. We're looking to hear it. Mason and I was like, This is awesome because it's a totally new thing for me. I'm an administrator. So to get involved in something like that, I realize I'm gonna get to see committees from a whole different perspective. So a lot of committees threat assessment or on tailgate committees were on building naming committees violence prevention. I mean, some of it ties back to emergency management. We've been on everything from background investigations to travel, authorization and stuff like that. And so I enjoy that because I think unlike and this is, it may be a resource for folks at other institutions. The advantage of being an emergency management is a TTE. Some point you're gonna have to touch every part of the organization, and it really is fascinating. So I've sat meetings going. This is amazing. I'm seeing apart organization most folks don't get to see. And then you get to go to the next meeting and someone will say something that I just learned at this other meeting. You know, such and such is happening if you two talked. So in some sense you become the glue on and the and the messengers to communicate between departments. Sometimes of the Band Aid. Um,
that's fun, because as the registrar, I I get that same vantage point from an academic standpoint and then moving sort of tangentially into the student life side of things. And most everything that deals with a student comes through the registrar's office at some point and so participating in groups across campus is one of the great joys and being ready shark. So that's fun that you're like but no, really, I'm the glue
Well, but I think you're so I would be the first to admit I don't understand the academic side of the house nearly as much as the administrative side of the house. So I mean, 90% of time is probably administrative side of the house, so that makes us the perfect team. Emergency management
and registrar's office need to get
together because you understand, that's that's something I think we forget to and again not to bash my administrative friends out there, and I read, But, um, there's a couple great books out there about the rise of the administrative class and how terrible we are, but I
I think it's important because we do
lose sight of that. I honestly, I walk across campus sometimes, and I hope other people do is do as I you know, this is embarrassing admission. You know, there's there's 36,000 students here and I remember my audience and it's s O. I have lunch in There are Students Center to remind myself like these air thes of my customers, this is who I'm serving too often. I spend my time in around other you know, um, balding, middle aged white guys. And And I realize I'm losing perspective on this institution and that includes, you know, out of being out of touch with the needs of the faculty. And so I've made a point to try to teach if I can. And I'm gonna teach in the fall because I think it's important that we understand our institution and so we could be better, a better bond and only serves the glue. Absolutely. So that's the miscellaneous part.
So that's a ridiculous amount of things that you're responsible for and a lot of things that I had not thought of when I was thinking like emergency management. I mean, like the fire drills. Of course, that's a function, but I just didn't hadn't put that together. So thank you.
And it's not all me. I
need to have a team of people. There's a couple that you think you're doing it all. Doing it all
is that there's a lot of people involved in this operation.
Um, so we hinted at we've talked a little bit about communicable and full disclosure Mason had a scare where we suspected a student was had going 19. Can you give a little bit of information about Sort of which plans kicked into gear, what kinds of interactions you were hassling with which organizations? And what was your day today? Like just a CZ Ah, sort of a time capsule from that.
So that brings the interesting thing I think, to be an effective emergency manager. It's Ah, it's obviously a lot of training and competence, but it's really done a relationship. So it's a Saturday night, and I got a phone call from a friend of mine who happens to be the emergency manager for the local health department and because we've met before and supported the Health department in various capacities during H one n one, either as a volunteer mobilization center for all the folks that we're gonna distribute vaccine. When that was released. Finally, in our region, um, we had built that relationship already, so he calls me 10 o'clock on a Saturday night. You know what, Jesse? What's going on? And we start talking through what what's happening. And at that point, it was just a suspect case and, um unfortunately, that there's some other things that connected the individual to George Mason. So, um, the next day we were working really closely with everyone on our side. So this is the office of the Provost Representation University life, Fresh representation. Student Health Service is obviously registrar. Absolutely. Because naturally, the health department needs to know where the student was on campus and, of course, registrars the person to tell us where they might have attended classes. You got it, Um, and that's critical to cause at this point, the rumor mill is moving faster than the response. And that's almost always the case. All right, so social media is way out ahead of us and leasing things like the individuals linked in profile. And so there was There was something we need to contend with there, and I don't mean contend with it because we need to protect the institution. We needed to contend with it to also protect the student, because now the students in a crisis situation, right where their names being released, they might get intimidated by other people. So it was really important to get all the information together and then start communication. So I tend to draft most word First Communications and I obviously work with our strategic communications office to make sure it's safe for public consumption. I think I'm a decent writer, but again, they're the experts there full time exactly. So we were quite a bit on that and then started to think about the strategic response we're gonna have in the event that this was a positive case. Because at this point we have a lot of concerned people. It breaks in the news media's on campus, interviewing students. The information students are sharing some which is accurate, some of inaccurate, and that creates more challenges for us. So Monday we're returned to work. We convene the emergency operations group and said, Listen, we've got this situation and the week before actually had threatened to do this is to get a chance to, uh, pull the group together to start talking about our community disease plan. And so, during h one n one, we refined our communiqu Lizzie's plan and then again during the Ebola outbreak to make sure the institution had a general sense again going back to more process than procedure.
General Global Ebola exactly thank you for clarifying that. Yes, George Mason University way did not listen. Thank you. Global. Yes, right. So we
knock the dust off of that plan and looked at all the phases. Were we operated so again, it's basically under these conditions. The institution should be doing roughly these things. And so we did that and make sure that we're following our plans. And then the rest of that week, we continued, continued to monitor, stayed in close touch with the, um with the local health department. The other thing that I did is because there's a lot of chatter and other institutions were starting to release messages to the community about what they shouldn't shouldn't do. And this is also about the time that the U. S starting to impose or talk about imposing travel restrictions. They didn't actually want effect until the second. I think so what? I said, it's a way to get more people together. I mean, we're pretty smart here, but there's other smart people in the region. So we pulled together that Friday, a group of emergency managers and then their their colleagues from student health. So we all got together on our campus down in Arlington and had a quick power and talk through. Okay, what's everybody doing? What are you maintaining situation awareness. If you had to isolate students, how would you do that? What kind of guidance are you getting from your health departments To make sure we're all in sync so that Mason's not going it alone or no one of us is going alone in this journey when we have five or six or seven potentially, uh, contagious students on campus. And we have done this couple before. We actually brought in some experts from Princeton to talk through their experience, and maybe they're listening. Now, you know what I'm referring to. But they've been a tremendous help because they were able to share with us the best practices, and we were able to to modify our plans appropriately and then share some of that with our colleagues here in the D C area. So that was something else that we did so against making sure we're checking ourselves against best practices with other people were doing. And that was really helpful because we walked away from that with some some lessons learned it actually triggered a subsequent email to our community around some travel restrictions and new things we wanted to put in place. So that was it was a really intense period of time. Um, it was a negative case is we all know now is a positive. Yeah, exactly. Yes, it is a positive naked case. Um, I know, but that that's the part of the emergency manager I think I enjoy the most is getting everybody together. And it's what's incredible to me is, under these circumstances, you tend to see how this plays out on all emergencies. It seems, um, you see, people come together in ways that you don't normally see. So there's there's less turf ward of politics everyone tends to put on, you know, they're they're best side and come with them their best.
It reminded in those situations of what matters right and why we work in higher education and who is really important to us in higher education students. That's their experiences this building and growing and creating knowledge and believing in the idea of the higher education can change the world threatened. So like in these crises, people remember that you don't scrape the other stuff away about Well, I didn't get priority scheduling in this glass so well. And you see the dependencies, You know, like on a day to day
basis. I might not see how dependent I am on the registrar to do my job, but in the crisis, it becomes
our way. Can't do anything.
Almost every emergency impacts the registrar in some capacity because typically it involved. Well, it always involves students. But it also involves usually timing in university operations in some sense, and that's always gonna impact class schedule. So everything from making our routine snow call closures, too. Um, you know, a building being offline, which has happened. We had a suspicious package situation of the J. C R student, our main student center. Recently. There's classes need relocated. There's faculty. They're concerned that has a ripple effect on the rest of the schedule. Um, yeah, we can't do any of this without one another,
right? So this is a registrar focused podcast. Let's talk about some of the ways the registrar's offices can and do assist with emergency planning. We started to talk about it just now, So registrars are the stewards of student academic data, so we know and have access to the schedule of classes, which can come in handy when you need to know where a student is supposed to be at any given time, or how many classes are being held in a particular building or just people traffic patterns between building to building at any given time. And in fact, the only way I hear it, Mason built a pretty nifty dashboard for emergency management so that you all can see how many students are scheduled to be on campus at any given time. Scheduled is the critical piece, like they're registered for the classes. I can't guarantee that they're in those classes in what buildings at what times a day, etcetera. So what are some of the other ways that you can think of when would recommend for registrars to be involved with their emergency management planners at their institutions?
So I think you've hit on the main ones. I mean, a lot of it is how do we manage the student body and move classes? That's probably the and that that can take a lot of effort trying to shuffle schedules around, particularly it's a prolonged event. So if it's a multi day event, that becomes really difficult or one particular buildings off line that becomes very challenging. But that happens under more certain more conditions in just emergency. So, for example, we've had major events occur on campus. Whether it's presidential candidates coming to campus, that could be a major disruption. So again talking through with the registrar, what's the potential impact of this event? And are we able to accommodate this event without, without disadvantaging are students who are come to the institution getting education right? It's two missions, but they sometimes conflict upon another. So I think that's one of the big ones. The data isn't really critical. I mean, that's something we use for snow calls. So when were ableto would have a look at that list and say, if we make a decision around delaying opening until 10 or potentially closing earlier for how many students is that impacting? And I also recognize that as the semester goes on, students of determine which classes they need to go to, which they don't, but then also rescheduling those classes, right? So this is one of things where I get done. I fight my hands and walk away like I was a great emergency. No one got hurt. Meanwhile, you're going.
I've got six days of rescheduling to
do here, right? So? So that's where we need to be. More. I like to think about that. I realized that the work is not done. My main job might be done, but the registrar's job is just starting. So we need to be thinking about that, too.
And that goes back to one of your points to about what's the response? But then, once the recovery, right, so that's a
multi eight. Yeah, the rest of us have gone back
to the stage.
It's gonna take a lot longer to recover the thing. And again, this may be something we can talk about a bit more. I may be getting my my information wrong here, but there is an assumption that when we have ah Coop event or we need to, um, close a portion of campus or building that we can just take instruction and moved from face to face the online with a flip of a switch.
So that's not exactly true. Um, and this is one of the things that other institutions in particular in China and South Korea where it is a process to get faculty to teach online for an individual class meeting times the one meeting period class section that is not necessarily too much of a challenge. We at Mason create a blackboard stub for every class section, and whether the instructor uses it or not is really up to the instructor. But they have that as a resource. And so if we needed to in an emergency situation in this, too, it's gonna unfold and get unpacked in a variety of ways. Because in a way, I can tell, and I wouldn't dare tell the faculty how to teach. At best, I can tell them when and where they get to teach. And so changing a modality is not a directive that generally comes from the registrar's office. And so this would is one of those situations where the EOE G would get together, and then someone would decide that that's what needs to happen for a period of time. And then the directive to do that would need to come through the president or the provost down to the dean's down to the department chairs to individual faculty members who might be affected But, you know, the Stern center here has some training on how instructors can teach online can move courses online. There is a movement to have an increased online presence. So it's one of those things that we, as an institution should always keep in our back pocket of in an emergency. And this is something we should communicate to faculty as an expectation as part of our culture, is that in an emergency you will be expected to continue to deliver your course content, potentially in a different modality. And so to help instructors from an early on from a planning stage before the response stage to help them understand what resource is air available to them and then to help and assist with training and practice. If they feel like that's necessary, they don't feel comfortable just shifting over and again, it comes down. We did this at Michigan State, where we had a table top exercise where was again a communicable disease situation, and we were like, OK, we have to close the institution a week 13 and so how do we do people get credit for the semester? Do we continue to try and offer classes in a different delivery mode. And this was 10 years ago. It wasn't even 15 years ago. Actually, it wasn't even like Oh, yeah, of course you're gonna teach online. It was what is online? Um, from a faculty perspective. Students. Um so that's one of the things where we just need thio. Help faculty understand what the expectation is, what resources available to them. And then the directive needs to be a directive from the academic side of the house, down from the president of the provost of the dean's. Everybody needs to be on board about what's expected for what period of time. So
you're That's exactly I was going with this because I think that assumption is I was talking to a neighbour the other day and and we're talking with the Corona virus case, and you obviously knew I worked at Mason and said, You know, why don't you guys just close and one of those classrooms Just take that? I almost did the same things that we're neighbors. I was like, Don't talk to me again, but that's what inside of it, you've got to be kidding me. And then you know the same things that. Well, just go to the classroom, take all the desks out and burn him like Whoa ho ho! So So we got to talking. But that's the assumption. It's just, well, just right. And we have the same thing from folks that were concerned about the case before we announced that it was negative. Why don't you cancel classes and moving online? And I understand the logistical challenges of that. You understand that, And so I I appreciate that. But I think that's exactly where on partnership the office, the Provos, the registrar can help us with setting those expectations for faculty, um, and then providing some assistance because that's a massive undertaking, depending on how many people are impacted. Now again, we're not thinking we close the entire institution. It's a different planning scenario, but one or two buildings? Ah, couple class sections, Whatever reason. Absolutely so. If say, for example, on a health department says Section 101 of biology is now offline for next two weeks. That's 300 students that now need to convert to potentially size of biology class. But that's a lot of students. We need to figure out a transition online a CZ well as the fact. So I think there's that could become the most critical response strategy, depending what the scenario is. And I think many institutions probably not thought that through all the way,
it provides a remarkable amount of flexibility as well. If it's a global crisis and we're experiencing now with Kobe 19 you can enable students to continue their learning from wherever they are. I don't have to come back to a particular place on Dhe. Same with the faculty. Members of the faculty are not able to travel or you are uncomfortable traveling. They can offer the course content in a appropriate way in an acceptable way on and continue on. But that is a big lift, and it is. Teaching online is different than teaching face to face. And so that's one of those skills that instructors have toe learn and be trained on and develop and getting the appropriate course content built and the way that they'll do assessments. All sorts of things come into play when you do that, so it is not just a tomorrow you'll be teaching online for exactly rest of the semester, but in an emergency, you have to offer tomorrow's class online or it has to be canceled. Giving those two options. I think a lot of instructors say, All right, we'll do it online. We'll do it Web Stream the lecture
and what we're working on that we've actually part with the stern center to look at. We have, ah, academic continuity template that we put together that we way sort of borrowed. We had our own stuff already. We took some of the stern center stuff. We actually looked out whether institutions are doing and I borrowed from my colleagues and emergency management around around this topic. And so we're hoping to make those resource a little bit more robust and have become a practice. One of the institutions down the street I'll stretch of the with George has a great academic continuity program that when they when they closed the institution for a snow day, for example, they say academic continuity is in effect, and then they have a list of the resource is and waits. And some of what we're proposing is this is the way you can do. Ah, ad hoc online instruction for the day too weak. Three weeks, much different scenario
and this is not really out of line with where a lot of employers are going as well, so worried when the Fed is closed for snow. If you are approved for tele work, the expectation is that you will tell it work. The trick that you're not off today. You're working. You're just not going into the office somewhere. So that's you know, as we are in an interconnected Elektronik world, there is the expectation that the weather is not gonna keep us from continuing on, and whatever it is
we're doing one last thing about this the bride you mention whether you know, a one day event, not not such a big deal, multi day events or what scare me because you have to have a sustained response. You have to maintain that momentum and you have to be kind of dedicated to that. The thing I get concerned about we have multi day emergencies is where do we start to run afoul of accreditation standards, and that is something I don't have a really good sense of. Now I just happen to be pointed to another committee around accreditation. I'm excited about that one, too Thank you. Oh, excellent. Fantastic four to
see. There you go. So that's the thing.
I start to worry about it. You know, after two weeks, when do we start having to make that you no go no go decision that could potentially disrupt the entire semester. And that's when the Health Department started asking me around, You know, Listen, when would you guys close campus or or when you know, if we recommend closing are canceling classes, rather what you gonna do and kind of snickers and go? I mean, it had to be, you know, a cold day in hell before we do that. Honestly, I mean, we're thinking you're talking about regionally shutting down. I mean, public schools have to be out of out of school. You'd have to have a much larger regional response before George Mason says, Hey, you know what? We're gonna cancel classes like that is sort of resent the idea
that that's a $1,000,000,000 decisions. Yes, easily.
It's massive and independent institution it can make or break that institution. So that goes back to this whole and again through our various channels of communication. All of us, I think you need do a better job of explaining higher education to our colleagues that are outside of higher education. Because I often sit in these emergency management meetings and they're telling us, you know, you know, sort of lecturing to us. So we develop the lecture guys.
I mean the textbooks that made you professionals written
by our institutions. I mean, not to say that we're better, but But there's this assumption that
way. Perspective. We need
help, and I'm like we're pretty self sufficient. We got a lot of expertise inside our institutions as a matter of getting it all together in the right spot. But you were pretty sharp, for most part. And, um and so I think there needs to be a little better job of marketing higher education to the other professional fields outside our education so that we're not just seen as a really sophisticated public school system. I mean we are, but there's a lot that comes with higher education. I think people
discount Absolutely. So, um, one last thing before we wrap up for today, I want to talk about a continuity of operations plan. We've mentioned him a couple of times. What is a continuity of operations plan. How do I know if I have one? Why do I need one? What do I do if I don't have one? Or if I have an old one that needs to be
absolutely So this is, um, and counting operations again is on that back side, right. The side of emergency most folks don't want to spend on a time on. So we look a lot of prevention, mitigation, planning, preparedness and then, obviously the response. That's a recovery part that people tend and we'll figure that out when we get there. So Coop plans a really designed around to planning scenarios. One a reduction workforce. Whatever reason, right, that could be. In this case, let's use grown a virus, right? Let's suppose it's as bad as it as we think it might be. And and we start implementing self isolation period for two weeks. What you gonna do for two weeks if 1/3 or half of your staff or home what happens? The public school systems close. For whatever reason, all of a sudden half of workforce has to stay home, provide child care because presumably daycare closes well in something like this, And now, um, So what are you doing? I mean, you've got a bunch of critical personnel. So Coop helps you identify what do you do with the reduction of workforce? What you gonna do as faras orders this obsession, right. What you gonna do? Uh, if if If Dave happens to be out that day and I'm the only one that has access to our website, we need updated website. So it's those types things. So it's identifies key personnel opportunity to do cross training so you can maintain those critical functions. I wanna see critical functions. This can be a difficult conversation to have with departments. Everybody's job's important, right. But in a 30 day period, not everyone necessary needs to do their job. So, for example, we do building inspections and, um, you know, building inspections is good. One fire drills. We can push those back 30 days, 60 days. It's not convenient. It might disrupt some things down the road, but for those 30 or 40 days, we can suspend those operations and focused exclusively on emergency management functions, functions, the communications functions, things like that. So that has to be a very honest conversation in the department to figure out what we absolutely have to do and what can we streamline? The other planning scenario is a loss of critical facilities, and that's you lose the facility. And I like to think of Coop is more realistic terms. We're not talking about the entire campus being obliterated because that's not planning, sneer. We even want to think about it or can contend. We've got a different precisely yeah, it's called Knock the dust off your resume and let's go rebuild somewhere else. So the other planning scenarios we lose a building for whatever reason or multiple buildings, it could be because of, ah, massive utility failure. It could, because of a fire. I like to joke that sprinkler systems have caused more damage than fires ever have. We have more water damage on campus from, you know, a faulty sprinkler line or something like that then we ever had on due to a fire. But in active threats, another one was examples. Actor threat occurs in the building more often than not, that building's taken off line so they can conduct an investigation so they can rehab the building to make it look difference. There's not a triggering response for those folks that might have been in the building when the event occurred. So there's a number different scenarios would take a building or buildings off line. If you can't get to your office, how are you going to maintain those critical functions? Are you gonna work elsewhere? Was that look like What about the technology is in your office. Do you have access to that? Applications it on your desk top. There's another false assumption that well, our I t s department would just restore all the applications out of my desktop. No, they won't. Not of their license to you. You don't have that license. So there's all these things that we learned is in the course of doing our coup planning that that illuminated some huge gaps. Right? So we look at a gap analysis and business impact analysis when we look at these critical functions to figure out okay, these are the weak points. That's everything coops really good for, uh, and then figure out ways to mitigate those. So at one point we started coop many years ago, we discovered that our institutional website was hosted on somebody CPU underneath her desk. Yeah, so we're like, Well, hold on a second and we still occasionally discover things like that not of that scale or significance. But we do discover there's some very weak spots and some business functions here and there were quick to address those. So I think Coop is valuable in a number of a number of ways. Do you need one? That's kind of departmental decision. Um, I would suggest sitting down as a group and going through the What is it that we do? What would the institution look like? And what would the impact be if we didn't do a B, C and D for 30 days? And think about all the different audiences it might be? Well, students, we just fine. What about the faculty wrote about the community members? Or what about the other? Downstream dependencies, for example, is student financing right? So student accounts is that dependent on you in some capacity? So the students, unable to pull money from their Pell, grant their loans because of ah record issue in the registrar's office? That's a critical function. So that's where you start to see all the interdependencies among the offices, which is again another benefit of being in the emergency management field and participating in Coop, but also by being involved in Coop as a department, you get to see where your dependencies and are with other functions of the institution. So Coop is valuable for that, too. How do you know if you're on Coop? Hopefully, your supervisor sat down and talked to you
and said, Hey, you're on Coop
and by the waiter your designated so foreclosed you need to come in. And that's not the case for everybody. A lot of stuff. What we do now is is remote, which is great. But yeah, they're certainly times where they're going to say, I'm sorry you need to come into T campus. As a matter of fact, the common with Virginia's recently released some ah, a new executive order that says in the Declaration of Emergency, the governor can suspend leave for state employees and reassigned state employees. And that's something similar to Coop. You want to be thinking about that, too? We hope it doesn't happen here, Mason, but as an institution to be nice to know, you know we need some expertise in this field, Dave, your designated, We're gonna pull you out of position temporarily in assigning the registrar's office, dealt with X Understanding who those key personnel are helps us as an institution. Figure out who needs to be here and where we might have some gaps in training and, um, backups that could become critical in an instant response. That's that's really the think the they think I looked at your coup plan before he came over today. Thanks for maintaining your coup plant and just an example of some of the things that we found critical. And this isn't all of the things that you've identified but academic records. For obvious reasons, your audience can figure out a 1,000,000 reasons why that's gotta be maintained. Classroom scheduling. We've talked a lot about why that's so important. University catalog and curriculum, I mean, depend on the time of year that could be the single most important thing the institution needs to do a degree compliance. The scenario is shared earlier about closing down two weeks before when a graduation, not a good scenario and then certification. That's enrollment status, dome missile status and veteran status. Obviously massive got out huge, and there's all sorts of other regulatory things that might come into play, whether it's federal rags, dele regs or accreditation regs. So,
David, anything else you wanna offer as advice or suggestions to the registrar's of the world? Yeah,
I think, um, and we struggle with this. I I hope that, um, I hope that all everyone listening It's an opportunity to meet with the emergency manager. I know that sometimes it's a burden, Coop. I'll be honest. It's not fun. And someone once described it as insurance. It's a real pain, but it's necessary that that unfortunately, in some cases it sort of describes a lot of emergency management like I don't have to be prepared for this, what after participants participate this exercise, this is never gonna happen. So what I've tried to do is say, that's that's possible. But what it does do, and what you and I both appreciate is it creates those relationships between us and the rest of the party, arrest the institution. So by participating in emergency planning, an emergency management you're really figuring out in defining your role, both specifically and holistically within the institution. So I've tried to pitch him or is a this is a way for us to be a better organization in general, but at the same time, we're satisfying the need to be prepared for what could happen.
Thank you so much for taking some time. This has been fantastic. I really appreciate you putting this together and sharing your expertise. Enjoy.
I don't get to be the center of attention. Let something bad
happen. So this is This is a refreshing experience for me. Right up. Thank you. Thanks so much. I want to say a big thank you to Mason's emergency manager, Dr David Ferris, for taking the time to share his expertise with us today and for being part of the glue that helps to make the institution a safe environment for students, faculty and staff to engage in the work of higher education to go meet with your emergency manager on your campus. If you're enjoying the podcast, please tell a friend share the link and subscribe to the mailing list until next time Cough into your bent elbow. I'm Doug McKenna. This is for the thief