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University beefs up emergency plan; H1N1 a priority

While many see the lazy days of summer as a chance to kick back and take it easy, experts at Memorial are taking the downtime to beef up the university’s Emergency Management Plan.

A university-wide Emergency Management Steering Committee (EMSC), chaired by vice-president (administration and finance) Kent Decker, has been working on a ­­strategy to address all levels of emergency management planning, with the formation of additional subcommittees to focus on various risk categories. The EMSC provides direction and sets priorities to deal with any potentially life-threatening or non-life threatening emergency that may impact the university on and off its campuses, locally, nationally and internationally.

“There are many types of hazards which could impact our university,” said Emergency Management Planner Karen Alexander. “For example, we need to be prepared for fire, long-term power outages, flooding and laboratory explosions. Then there are human-related incidents such as terrorism, assaults or active intruders with weapons on campus, and of course health-related emergencies, such as Norwalk, Avian flu and the planning and preparation currently underway for H1N1.”

While universities across the country tweak their individual emergency plans on an ongoing basis, an anticipated nation-wide spike in the H1N1 influenza virus this fall has prompted all Canadian university emergency management committees to narrow their focus on the upcoming flu season.

World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that there may be a severe and more widespread second wave of swine flu this fall. In response, Memorial has struck a Pandemic Preparedness Planning Committee (PPPC) as a precautionary measure in case of a H1N1 increase. Enterprise Risk Management Director David Head, who chairs the PPPC, said the planning is being designed to address three possible levels of an H1N1 outbreak. “Our goal over the summer is to work very aggressively to plan for three levels of a potential H1N1outbreak; mild, moderate and severe,” said Mr. Head.
Representatives from numerous divisions across campus – from Academic Affairs to Student Health to Human Resources – are actively working on preparedness, prevention/mitigation, response and recovery plans with respect to H1N1.

The PPPC is focusing it planning efforts on the various academic, research, administrative and student areas, which might be potentially impacted in the case of a pandemic. While there were many plans currently in place, this central planning group, which will ensure alignment of all planning initiatives, as well as ensuring that there, are no gaps. For example, in addition to addressing the health and safety of students, faculty and staff, decisions may have to be made on matters such as academic advancement for students who become ill and are unable to attend class or clinical placements
“Memorial as an institution is addressing its responsibility to educate its students, faculty and staff on the requirements necessary to respond to any potential impact of a potential H1N1 pandemic, and where necessary develop mitigation strategies to help lessen the potential impact of such an event,” said Ms. Alexander. “There are many university personnel currently actively working on issues which could affect their areas of responsibility. The role of the Pandemic Preparedness Committee is to ensure effective co-ordination across all facets of the university at all three campuses.”

For more information, please visit www.mun.ca/erm/h1n1.
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