Sidebottom Updates Faculty Senate on Emergency Preparedness Planning

January 31, 2008
January 31, 2008 — Marjorie L. Sidebottom, director of the University of Virginia's Office of Emergency Preparedness, outlined to the Faculty Senate Wednesday steps she is taking to create a "a culture of preparedness" at the University.

Sidebottom coordinates the University's emergency plans with the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, including a hazards mitigation and recovery plan and a critical incident plan. She said the University is also working on a disaster resistance plan with the help of a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Despite her personal efforts, she warned that disaster preparedness is "everybody's job."

"If you were raised in a city, you know what goes on around you," she said. "It's intuitive. You know when there are things that make your hairs bristle and that you need to report these things."

Sidebottom said in an emergency, faculty members need to communicate, know the evacuation plan and understand the concept of "shelter in place" — remaining where you are, if that is safer than venturing out. Each faculty member should understand what he or she needs to do in a situation, she said.

"These are some of the procedures to be considered, along with common sense," she said. "These are not a mandate."

Sidebottom said the University has established a text message alert system and is also looking at a siren and public address system to communicate to faculty and students that there is an emergency.

Sidebottom said while it was impossible to "lock down" the entire Grounds, there may be some areas that can be secured. The University is reviewing its security with a private contractor.

Citing the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech, Sidebottom said the University has reviewed the report from a commission created to examine the shooting, and found the University has already implemented most of the recommendations from the report.

She is also getting students involved in the security question, attending first-year orientation to meet new students about helping create a "culture of preparedness" at the University.  She said students have already made a variety of suggestions and have formed an organization called Hoos Ready, which is working with the Parent's Committee on security issues, including circulating a preparedness "Tip of the Month."

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Leonard W. Sandridge said the Virginia Tech commission cited U.Va.'s plan to deal with a shooting incident as a model. He said the University is still learning about security and preparedness issues and has policies in place that invest authority in many different people to make decisions on the spot during an incident.

The University is also incorporating security measures in new construction design, Sandridge noted. Many buildings that remain open all night for the convenience of faculty and students will soon be accessible to faculty and students only through swipe card entrances after a certain hour, he said.

There are systems in place for University personnel to work with and react to students who may be a hazard to themselves or others, he said.

"We're working real hard on this," Sandridge said. "And if you see a weakness in the system, please share it with us."

In other business:

• Craig K. Littlepage, director of athletics, presented his annual report to the Senate, recounting some of his department's planning goals, including increasing graduation levels to 100 percent for athletes completing their eligibility. The University is currently graduating about 94 percent of its athletes. He also wants the school's teams to be highly competitive in the Atlantic Coast Conference and for national championships. And he said the department is working on establishing more financial support for the athletic program, such as creating an endowment.

Littlepage reminded the senators about the extensive athletic facilities available to them on Grounds, such as the Aquatic & Fitness Center and Memorial Gym.

"These [facilities] bring added value to the University's programs," Littlepage said.

Littlepage closed his remarks by saying the athletic department would fund a dissertation-year fellowship this spring. The Senate is offering at least six fellowships, at approximately $25,000 a piece, for graduate students doing their final year of doctoral work.

• The Senate opened its meeting remembering the late Steven L. Nock, Commonwealth Professor of Sociology, who had been a member of the Senate and its executive committee. Colleague Marcia Childress said the faculty would miss Nock's "infectious humor," and his "radiant, impish smile."

• University President John T. Casteen III told the Senate that the University's $3 billion capital campaign had reached the $1.6 billion point, several months ahead of schedule.

He also discussed the state budget at the General Assembly in Richmond, noting there were various proposals under debate for construction funding and pay raises.

• Executive Vice President and Provost Arthur Garson Jr. said search committees were in the final stages of finding new deans for the School of Law, the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine. He said there was a timeline to find a new vice president for research and graduate studies and the vice provost of international studies.

Garson also praised the senators for their contributions to the reports from the Commission on the Future of the University.

The next Faculty Senate meeting will be held on March 11 at 3 p.m. at Newcomb Hall.