Emergency protocols for students on campus

Byline: Emma J. Walsh, Staff Writer

The recent power outage brings forth options for students on how to deal with emergency situations on campus.

On Thursday October 17th, A windstorm resulted in the loss of power across both USM campuses. The loss of power left students with no wifi, electricity, or hot water. Classes, activities, and events were cancelled for the day.

USM ResLife said on Facebook that students should have their own emergency plans for future threats and natural disasters. The options offered to students during this power outage were to leave campus, or utilize the facilities on campus that did have power. Chief Operations Officer Nancy Griffin gave students options if they decided to stay on campus. Students were able to shower at Sullivan Gym, and get a hot meal and use wifi in the Brooks Student Center.

Since it had been more than a day with the power still being out, students were asked to leave campus due to safety and comfort concerns, as residence halls did not have heat, according to Nancy Griffin. Griffin also provided the USM community with email updates during the power outage.

Griffin stated that USM has teams and resources available at all times and that the school follows the National Incident Management System (NIMS) protocol in emergency situations. When asked how USM deals with emergencies she said, “Each situation or emergency is different. We learned a lot from the power outage and have a meeting scheduled for a debrief and training.”

John Souther, Executive Director of Facilities Management, checked facilities on campus to ensure safety for students and faculty.

The protocols for a utility interruption such as a power outage (resulting in an evacuation) are to evacuate the area and retreat to a safe destination. The emergency protocols and evacuation processes for this event and others can be found on USM’s Emergency Action Plan, which is available on the USM website. After students are evacuated, the authorities will then determine when it is safe for students to return to campus. It is important to not stay on campus when an evacuation is instituted because, as noted in the Emergency Action Plan, voltage fluctuations may occur when power is being restored to a building. These sudden surges of electricity can be dangerous, according to the Emergency Action Plan.

Following these processes as well as instituting your own emergency plan as a backup would be helpful for a power outage, or for other situations such as natural disasters, gun threats, and bomb threats.

For instance, for a bomb threat, it is advised in the Emergency Action Plan to determine the location of the threat and evacuate that area and notify police. The police will then search the area and the building will re-open when it is approved as safe. Though these events are extremely rare, it is of great importance to have emergency plans in place so you are prepared if the worst happens.

Power was restored Saturday morning and students were able to return to campus at 9 a.m.. In a follow-up email, students were encouraged to discard any perishable items in their fridge and freezers due to the fact that they could have spoiled during the power outage and may cause illness.

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