What campus leaders can learn from MSU-West Plains’ flood recovery efforts

Aug. 18, 2017

BY ZORA MULLIGAN

 

After the flood waters receded in my hometown of West Plains last spring, I reached out to Drew Bennett, the chancellor of Missouri State University-West Plains, to talk about lessons learned during the crisis. I thought his observations might be helpful as campus leaders prepare for students’ return to campus and a new school year.

 

Chancellor Bennett listed four things he was happy his team had in place:

 

  • An emergency operations plan that doesn’t just sit on the shelf.

  • Strong relationships with local emergency personnel.

  • Well-trained front-line staff who have the presence of mind and skills they need to lead in an emergency.

  • Back-up plans for when their back-up plans don’t work.

 

Some of this sounds like common sense, but common sense isn’t always common – especially in a crisis. I encourage leaders to ask themselves:

 

  • Have my teams thought through and rigorously tested their emergency operations plans together?

  • What will we do if our plans rely on technology that isn’t available during the emergency? (MSU-West Plains is investing in more two-way radios that will work even when the power is off, cell service is out, and you can’t drive across town to ask the DJ at your local radio station to send out an update.)

  • Do we have partnerships with organizations that can help us get through the worst of it?

 

That last point is critical. Chancellor Bennett pointed out that MSU-West Plains benefitted tremendously from being part of the Missouri State System, noting that colleagues at the Springfield campus helped with social media updates, set up an emergency notification webpage, and staffed critical functions like purchasing and procurement while West Plains employees dealt with their own issues at home.

 

So, college and university leaders - do you have a plan in place to get help? And, just as important, do you have a plan in place to give help?