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Emergency team: students’ safety first
The week that wasn't
Quinnipiac University’s Emergency Management Team made the decision to close the Mount Carmel campus last week with students’ safety in mind, a member said. On Oct. 25, the team began meeting about every six hours in person or via conference calls to decide how the school should deal with the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
The Emergency Management Team closed the Mount Carmel campus last week but resumed classes on the York Hill and North Haven campuses starting Oct. 31.
Director of Emergency Management John Twining said that the group primarily focused on the safety of students.
“Safety of the students is always paramount, here and on the road,” Twining said. “We couldn’t open classes because it wasn’t safe without power.”
The Emergency Management Team is made up of various Quinnipiac administrators from several departments, including Public Affairs, Residential Life, Student Affairs and Facilities, Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan said.
According to Twining, the Emergency Management Team follows the Incident Command System (ICS,) a nationally used emergency procedure where everyone has a specific job and listens to a chain of command.
The team has a basic plan that guides how it acts in emergency situations, Twining said.
“There is an emergency plan that we follow and for different emergencies we do different things,” Twining said. “If we had not had the issue with United Illuminating not being able to come right away to fix [the power] then this would have been a walk in the park. But, because we couldn’t get classrooms up and functional, it caused us issues.”
Despite the setbacks and surprises, Twining never felt like the team was forced to make quick decisions.
“We always discuss major decisions beforehand,” Twining said. “Most of the decisions we made, we had at least 12 hours to think about them, bring it to the meeting and then make a decision.”
The Emergency Management Team took into account the plans of other local universities, the availability of employees and Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Oct. 29 traffic ban when making these decisions.
Another important consideration was students who were stuck in their hometowns.
“We are trying to be as accommodating as possible,” Morgan said. “We look at emails and forward them to team members. We are very concerned about students who can’t get back to school.”
Since the York Hill and North Haven campuses had power, classes resumed there.
“Our business is education, we have to hold classes,” Twining said. “It wasn’t unsafe to have people in North Haven because they had power.”
Although Twining said the Emergency Management Team considered the roads to be safe enough to travel, senior nursing major Angela Polleys felt otherwise.
“We are sent all across Connecticut for clinical, and some of the sites where we were expected to be in the morning had been evacuated days prior,” Polleys said. “[On Wednesday], I had to leave campus for clinical at 6 a.m. and it was extremely dark. It was raining, the street lights were out, and the highway was not lit well.”
Once commercial power was restored on the Mount Carmel campus on Thursday evening, the Emergency Management Team discussed holding classes on Friday, Nov. 2. However, the team decided against this because it had already announced that classes would be canceled on Nov. 2 and it feared the power would go out again, Twining said.
Although the majority of students were given an entire week off from classes, Twining made it clear that this was not the Emergency Management Team’s intention.
“We are providing you with an opportunity for an education and if we are not doing that then we are doing you a disservice,” Twining said. “That was the basic discussion. Everybody [in the Emergency Management Team] wanted to know, ‘When can you open?’ Not, ‘Are you going to close?’”