ALBUQUERQUE – Plans are in place for basic emergencies on university campuses, but key components are lacking when it comes to planning for mass-casualty events, according to a study published by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. The study was published in the July/August issue of Radiologic Technology, ASRT’s peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Study author Tammy Curtis, M.S.R.S., R.T.(R)(CT), an assistant professor of radiologic sciences at Northwestern State University in Shreveport, La., reviewed the emergency plans of 28 randomly selected institutions with accredited radiologic science programs.
Research findings confirmed that most of the institutions are prepared for basic emergencies, including policies for bad weather, hazardous material spills, fire safety and bomb threats. However, of the 28 institution plans that were reviewed, only five had policies addressing school shootings or mass-casualty events. This included a lack of policies and procedures for suspicious activity or people, firearms, lockdowns, evacuations, hostages, biological agents, post-crisis counseling, crisis management teams and terrorist activities.
Emergency plans, retrieved through each university’s main Web site, were reviewed to determine whether they included key emergency preparedness components. The key components fall within four phases of emergency management, as outlined by the U.S. Department of Education’s Emergency Response and Crisis Management Technical Assistance Center:
1. Preparation ¾ Helping schools get ready to respond quickly and effectively for emergencies. This is accomplished through diagnosing weaknesses in current crisis plans and revising them to counteract the weaknesses; building relationships with community partners; defining roles for levels of authorities; providing training programs for employees and first responders; mapping facility floor plans and utility cutoffs; acquiring proper equipment; creating an evacuation plan; and developing lockdown procedures.
2. Prevention ¾ Actions taken by schools to decrease the chances of emergencies occurring. These actions include assessing the emotional well-being of employees and students; physical and environmental hazards; campus culture and climate; and the safety and security of the environment. Another component is mitigation, or acting before disaster strikes, to permanently prevent the occurrence of a disaster or reduce its effects.
The goal of mitigation is to lessen injuries, deaths, risks, damages, legal liability and economic losses that could result from an emergency.
3. Response ¾These activities take place immediately following the emergency and include taking actions toward recovery such as assigning responsibilities, arranging resources, documenting all activities, conducting debriefing meetings and activating an incident command system.
4. Recovery ¾ The study states the goal of this phase “is to restore the institution’s operations, including the promotion of emotional healing for all parties affected by the crisis; restoring buildings, daily operations, key information systems, communication channels and class sessions; and initiating financial protocols.”
According to the study, “planning and organization are imperative for schools to cope with unique problems and emergency situations that may arise … The literature review and description of findings from the online search indicate that radiologic science educators and educators of all disciplines should become familiar with their university’s existing emergency preparedness plan. This includes knowing if the key components address measures for preventing and responding to crisis events such as school shootings.” The study also suggests that “radiologic science educators should educate their students on how to respond to emergency situations to save their lives and the lives of others.”
In addition, collegiate programs should have a good working relationship with their local homeland security and disaster response teams.
“The first step,” said Curtis, “is to evaluate their existing emergency preparedness plan for what is in place and what is missing. The second step is to address what is missing from the plan.”
Radiologic Technology is printed bimonthly and also is available online at www.radiologictechnology.org. ASRT members have free access to the online version, and nonmembers may access articles for a small fee.
The ASRT, based in Albuquerque, N.M., represents more than 131,000 members who perform medical imaging procedures or plan and deliver radiation therapy. The Society is the largest radiologic science association in the world. Its mission is to provide radiologic technologists with the knowledge, resources and support they need to improve patient care.