How Memorial manages during an emergency

The decision to move to remote learning in the middle of the winter 2020 semester was unprecedented at Memorial University. The logistics alone of shifting from a physical community of some 18,000 students and 3,000 faculty and staff, all geared to a very precise academic calendar, to one in which instruction is completely remote, could not happen without extensive planning.

This path is guided by Memorial’s Emergency Management Plan. The plan outlines Memorial’s response for a range of emergencies, from snowstorms and power outages to severe risks like the current coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 falls in the category of highest risk, Level 3.

Level 3 is described as “a threat that critically affects life and safety, university infrastructure, academic programs, research, administrative operations, environment and/or reputation.”

A Level 3 risk calls for the establishment of an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). The EOC is the centralized facility where emergency response and recovery activities are planned, coordinated and delegated. The EOC is supervised by two incident commanders (IC) with section chiefs for planning, operations, logistics and finance/administration.

Incident commanders report to the executive policy group, which includes the president, provost, the other vice-presidents and general counsel.

The executive policy group provides direction in making strategic policy decisions for any incident that impacts the university’s ability, regardless of campus, to meet its mission of teaching and learning, research, scholarship, creative activity, service and public engagement; updates the Board of Regents and government; and convenes Senate if required.

In an EOC, recommendations about university operations are made at the EOC table, with advice from the various section chiefs and approval from the executive.

Each section chief (or chiefs) relies on a broad team to advise and make recommendations, with all aspects of the university’s core business – teaching and research – represented on these teams.

As Memorial’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic moved from the emergency phase to a ‘new normal,’ the responsibility for managing issues that arise shifted back to the traditional governance model. In November 2020 the Vice-Presidents Council, which is responsible for coordinating university operations, designated a Pandemic Strategy Team to advise it on pandemic-related matters.

For more information about emergency planning, visit Memorial's Emergency Management website.



230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000