Thursday, February 12, 2015

University Emergency Management

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Jeff Hescock, the Director of Emergency Management and Business Continuity at UMass Amherst,  speak in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class at the Isenberg School of Management.

Jeff has been at UMass Amherst since the Fall of 2013 and, previoously, had worked in a similar capacity at the UMass President's Office. He has also worked for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and in the private sector, so he was a perfect guest speaker and a great Professor for a Day!

We had to do some disruption management, since his talk was originally scheduled for this past Monday, which coincided with the second major snowstorm and with the university closing, again. I had seen the forecast last week and Mr. Hescock was able to reschedule - thank you very much!

Mr. Hescock made the importance of emergency management, especially in a university setting, come alive. He has graciously allowed us to post his lecture slides, which you can download here. 

He spoke about the Clery Act, the massacre at Virgina Tech in 2007 in which 32 people lost their lives, and how these impacted colleges and universities,  UMass Amherst is, in a sense, its own "city," and the legislature considers it as such. With 28,000 students, there are always challenges and, hence, emergency preparedness is so important!

Mr. Hescock discussed the vision of UMass Amherst as a Disaster Resilient University, which I liked very much, and spoke about the risk, business continuity, and emergency operations campus structure, the roles of the UMass Amherst Emergency Support Functions (ESP), plus his role after the Boston Marathon bombings and the emergency response at UMass Dartmouth when you worked at
the UMass President's Office.  He spoke how the UMass Dartmouth campus was evacuated and the Dartmouth High School was a staging area to reunite those evacuated with families and friends.

He did a great job reinforcing what the students have learned so far in this course about the important phases of emergency management and how these affect our university and community! We
were so impressed by his emphasis also on business continuity and the criticality of academics, research, and reputation! He also shared with us many personal experiences, such as the consulting project he had after a company's toilet overflowed overnight damaging all the paper records and computers! He also spoke about the gas leak close to campus last summer, which I remember well, and also of how well the students handled themselves after the Patriots' win of the Super Bowl recently.

Mr. Hescock  emphasized the importance of public information dissemination and appropriate media attention to events (before, during,  and post). 

Of course, the students also appreciated hearing about who decides whether to call it a snowday and cancel classes - Mr. Hescock gets the phone call at 4AM to start the discussions with info from the National Weather Service, the  Physical Plant folks, etc. and the text alerts are sent out shortly after 5AM.  He spoke about most always being close to their phones for text message receipts and may not check emails as regularly. He also spoke about the UMass Amherst homepage being updated in case of closings and other important information.

The workers did a great job cleaning the parking roads and walkways after the last snowstorm and Hescock noted that some of them actually "shelter in place" and sleep on campus.

Very impressive is how the organization and vice chancellors, in charge, meet regularly to identify lessons learned," post events - whether natural or man-made ones.

Everyone who was at Mr. Hescock's guest lecture today benefited from your exceptional expertise and practical know-how and your willingness to answer the students' numerous questions. We are very lucky to have him at UMass.