Community and technical colleges serve as an extension of the community and play a pivotal role in defining their community’s culture of preparedness, as well as planning for disasters and emergencies. However, while community colleges have the systems to develop planning and preparedness activities, they struggle with developing an emergency management system for disaster response.
The events of September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina and, more recently, Hurricane Sandy, have led to a culture in which preparedness and planning have become the norm in communities at both the institutional and individual levels. Moreover, tragic school shootings — from Seattle Pacific University to Virginia Tech and others — have illustrated the importance of emergency preparedness at the community level.
Community colleges exemplify the connection of the community to higher education and training. But unlike four-year institutions, community colleges struggle jurisdictionally from a lack of commissioned and sworn public safety and fire personnel to effectively institute and manage an “all-hazards” approach to emergency management. In addition, the institutionalization of the Incident Command System (ICS) under the National Incident Management System (NIMS) is theoretically possible, but operationally an unacceptable and inefficient system. Finally, the response and resiliency to return to normal operations is often mismanaged due to conflicting interests.
Read the complete report in the Feb./March issue of Homeland Security Today.
Richard Axtell is director of campus safety and transportation at Green River Community College in Washington. He also served as the Vancouver Department of Veterans Affairs Federal Security & Safety Compliance Manager and developed the first regional contract security compliance program within Veterans Affairs. As a member of the military, he developed the force protection actions for a small base in Germany and served on the QRF teams at Guantanamo Bay and Bosnia. He also conducted joint operations with allied forces in Korea along the DMZ, and in other combat and non-combat roles.