I asked my students if they think every college and university should have a mandatory course on disaster preparedness. As can be imagined the answer ranged from, “Absolutely, and here is why”, to “Another mandatory class that I have to pay for,” to my favorite, “We are adults, we all know what to do.” This last response was then greeted with my reply, “Please read your post from last week when I asked how prepared you are if a disaster strikes right now?” Colleges and Universities have a daunting task, oversight of thousands of 18-24 year old adults who may be very far away from home, and maybe for the first time. I was in Washington D.C. this past summer with numerous EM colleagues from various colleges and universities making a plea with congressional staffers for more assistance and recognition of the problem. We DID NOT ask for money, but recognition of the problem. One of the startling facts I learned was that higher education is the second most regulated industry in the nation, behind nuclear plants…YES, nuclear plants are number one, we are number two.
However, why shouldn’t we be? We are responsible for the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of our future leaders. Many times our campuses more then double the size of the local community. Ask a student, you will get this answer, “I am sure the school has a plan and will tell me what to do in a disaster.” Do you, can you, and will you be prepared? One of the things we all know very well, there are less resources to come help than there are people who need assistance after a disaster strikes. I just watched a video from a university that had twenty some thousand students in a football stadium when a storm passed through. The challenge, getting the student body to listen and getting them to evacuate. Maybe the mandatory freshmen awareness course could have assisted with this problem?
At the end of the day, we need to go back to baby steps, neighbor helping neighbor. It does not matter if that neighbor is your roommate, the student down the hall, or other members of your campus, and surrounding community. We all know college students can be a great asset after a disaster if properly trained. This is another example of a situation in which a little knowledge can go a very long way. Whose your neighbor?