Emory Report
November 10, 2008
Volume 61, Number 11

Crisis resources
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Emory EMS

Fire Safety

Environmental Health
and Safety

Facilities Management

Sexual Assault
Prevention and Response

Faculty Staff
Assistance Program

Student Health and Counseling Services

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Threat Assessment Committee


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November 10
, 2008
Preparing campus for all disasters

By Elaine Justice

When Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) was established in 2007, it was a milestone in what has become the University’s commitment to creating “a culture of preparedness” on campus. The concept, articulated in a talk given at Emory last year by Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, is one readily embraced by Alex Isakov, executive director of CEPAR.

“A ‘culture of preparedness’ means that there is some level of commitment to prepare for disaster among members of the community, a commitment to be part of a response to a disaster, and to be part of the mitigation and recovery from those disasters,” says Isakov.

“Every individual must understand their role in making a disaster-resistant community, rather than relying on some omnipotent office or agency that doesn’t exist.”

Robert Nadolski, CEPAR senior administrator, explains preparedness this way: “I told my daughter when she started driving that at some point she’s going to get a flat tire or the battery will die. You have two choices: You can choose to be prepared for those events, or you can choose not to. The culture of preparedness means choosing to take some personal responsibility. From a corporate perspective, if you’re prepared for the predictable events, you are also prepared to some extent for the unpredictable ones.”

CEPAR is encouraging the preparedness culture to take root on a number of different fronts: A recent $455,000 grant from the Department of Education is enabling CEPAR to develop a wide range of resources and strategies, from an informational Web site to a crisis management fusion group, from software to training, from drills to innovative ways to communicate with faculty, staff, students and their families.

Another federal grant will allow CEPAR and partners at Emory to complete a formal analysis of academic institutions nationally “to explore academic-community partnerships and determine how an academic institution’s resources can be applied in response to a community disaster, and further what relationships and novel strategies are effective toward that goal,” Isakov explains.

This community network, a partnership among neighbors and citizens, is essential to community disaster preparedness, says Isakov. The University already has a number of successful relationships that are up and running:

• Emory is in partnership with the Atlanta area’s Regional Coordinating Hospital (RCH) system, specifically with emergency management at Grady Health System, which serves as the RCH for 40 Atlanta-area hospitals.

• The Grady EMS Biosafety Transport Team coordinates with the CDC, Emory and CDC Quarantine Station at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for transport of patients with serious communicable diseases. Isakov directs the unit.

• Bruce Ribner, Emory Univer-sity Hospital epidemiologist and associate professor in the School of Medicine’s Infectious Diseases Division, directs a special CDC clinical containment unit at EUH with state-of-the-art ability to manage patients with serious communicable disease.

And last month, Emory began another major partnership when the CDC awarded the University a $1.5 million grant to establish a Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center. Despite the impressive array of expertise, funding and programs, says Isakov, the key element is still the individual.

“This is an issue of civic duty,” says Isakov. “There are things that each member of the community can do. They can enroll themselves in the e-Notify system, know what they should do when a warning siren sounds, know what directives such as ‘shelter in place’ mean. They can go as far as to have a ‘go-bag’ loaded with their most important documents and essentials in case of evacuation from their residence for fire or other threat.”

Eventually, says Isakov, the ideal would be that well-educated graduates of Emory would also have some rudimentary skill set that would include knowledge such as the essentials of scene safety and first aid. “The idea is that as a citizen of the community, if some tragic event occurs, instead of being a panicked victim or bystander, people would have the skills that would allow them to provide for their personal safety, and aid others around them.”