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Aligning Institutions of Higher Education emergency preparedness plans with the National Response Framework

Maureen Connolly, EdD


Colleges and universities must be prepared to respond to events that could compromise the safety of any person in a classroom, residence hall, office, or any other campus facility as well as for any event that could jeopardize the continuation of use of any campus facility. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) states, “Higher education institutions ... are realizing that improving their campus’ resistance to disaster will not only protect their own lives and those of their students, it will also safeguard their campus’ instruction, research, and public service.” The US Department of Homeland Security, FEMA developed the overarching strategy, the National Response Framework (NRF), for emergency preparedness for “government executives, private-sector and nongovernmental organization leaders.” FEMA and the Department of Education (DOE) developed specific guidelines for emergency preparedness for colleges and universities. This study linked these guidelines to the five principles of the NRF. Most institutions have an emergency preparedness plan, but just how effective are these plans? Do community colleges, state, independent, and proprietary institutions differ in terms of their level of emergency preparedness? The target population for this study is colleges and universities in the United States. This quantitative study measured how aligned the emergency preparedness plans of these colleges and universities are to the recommendations of FEMA and the US DOE, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. The data suggest that much more needs to be done to bring college and university emergency plans into alignment with the government recommendations. Alignment with the government documents for this sample of US colleges and universities is extremely low for each principle of the NRF.


Institutions of Higher Education, college, university, NRF, emergency preparedness

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