[Photo: The University of California at Davis’ Shields Library. Photo courtesy of Karin Higgins/UC Davis.]
The once-a-year funding event has arrived: It’s time for higher education institutions to get their grant proposals together to vie for some of the millions of dollars available to develop and improve campus-based emergency management planning efforts. All institutions of higher learning are eligible for the Emergency Management for Higher Education discretionary grants — including private universities and community colleges — which must be based on the emergency management framework of prevention-mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
What makes this grant unique to the higher education community? “There is nothing out there that is specifically targeted to emergency management planning in higher education; this is the only one that I know of,” said Valerie Lucus, emergency manager of the University of California, Davis.
The funding for the grant competition began in fiscal 2008 after the shooting at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in which Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people in April 2007. Other emergencies and disasters stressed the need for campus emergency plans, like 9/11 and hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The application deadline for fiscal 2010 funding is May 12, and applications can be submitted electronically using the E-Grants.ed.gov Web site or in hard copy. The U.S. Department of Education will provide funding to approximately 26 institutions with the estimated award size ranging between $200,000 and $750,000. The project period for award recipients is 24 months, and priority will go to applicants that have not previously received a grant through the program.
For fiscal 2009, the U.S. Department of Education awarded more than $9.7 million to 26 colleges and universities. Stanford University was the only California institution to receive funding through a grant of $451,564. Keith Perry, Stanford’s emergency manager, said the funding is supporting four projects:
- To create a risk-assessment model for higher education, which will identity the different models and try to assess issues that are unique to higher education institutions. “There are a number of components that go along with that, which include creating some exercise scenarios that could be used here or elsewhere, as well as some activities for a Community Emergency Response Team on campus,” Perry said.
- To educate the higher education community about the Incident Command System through the promotion of independent study courses that FEMA offers online.
- To develop a model for handling medical emergencies occurring on campus as part of a disaster. “Our worst-case scenario is a significant earthquake in the greater Bay Area, and we understand that the local hospital most likely would be overwhelmed with patients,” he said. “So we need to establish a capability to handle and manage patients within the university community without having to send those people to a hospital where they might be triaged down or need to wait longer for treatment.” This project will also include evaluating Stanford’s pandemic planning to see what improvements can be made based on lessons learned from the H1N1 outbreak.
- To establish a threat-assessment program on campus with the goal of early intervention for students or staff in distress before a situation escalates to violence.
Perry said all of the products that Stanford develops using the grant will be available to other higher education institutions that would like to use them or learn from them.
When the grant first became available, it caught university emergency managers and public safety planners off guard, Lucus said. “When this happened in 2008, everybody kind of knew that there was some money out there, but nobody ever really expected it to show up,” she said. “So when they announced that the grant was open, it caught everybody by surprise. So we all scrambled.”
When the information was released for the grant requirements, Stanford University had a head start on compiling the information. Perry said university officials had established an internal wish list of projects they wanted to focus on as well as a gap analysis that identified areas they wanted to improve within the university’s programs. “When the grant became available we went back to that gap analysis to identify specific components that we felt would be eligible and applicable within the grant program and then we turned those into a grant request, which was eventually funded,” he said. “We at least had some materials already prepared that we were able to repurpose for the grant.”
Perry offered some advice for higher education institutions interested in obtaining a portion of the Emergency Management for Higher Education funds: “I would encourage anyone who is contemplating one of these grants to understand that the grant process takes a lot longer than we would probably like it to and that they evaluate carefully what resources they’ll need to support it internally.”