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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm
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College hires consultant to assess emergency preparation


Beginning in January, Grinnell’s faculty and administrators began meeting with Margolis Healy and Associates, an emergency preparedness consulting firm, to assess the current state of the College’s emergency preparedness and to determine how the campus can improve.

The College will work with the firm through the 2014 calendar year to address several aspects of emergency preparedness, including reviewing and updating the current campus emergency plans and educating the campus community about the implemented changes.

Vice President for Student Affairs Houston Dougharty was a part of the process that ultimately selected Margolis Healy and Associates. 

“We had several firms that presented to us. Margolis Healy was certainly the most impressive and the most comprehensive. I’ve known other colleagues at other colleges and universities who have used them and been very, very pleased,” Dougharty said. “One of the things we like about them is that they’re not only helping us with the analysis of what our plan is, but they’re helping us with training and communication.”

In addition, Dougharty said that the decision to choose this firm will allow the College to continually reassess their plans and needs and to utilize the firm as long-term consultants in turn.

Grinnell Emergency

“As opposed to [Margolis Healy] just coming in, helping us with the plan and then disappearing, we’re going to have a more in-depth relationship with them,” he said.

According to Director of Security Steve Briscoe, members of the College meet regularly to review and come up with a comprehensive plan regarding campus security and safety.

“The Campus Emergency Preparedness Committee is a group of faculty, staff and students that meets on a monthly basis to talk about emergency planning here at the College and what we should be doing,” Briscoe said.

The Campus Emergency Preparedness Committee also contains several subcommittees that focus on the following areas:  hazardous risk identification, drill and emergency plans and communication. Margolis Healy and Associates will work with different departments in the College to develop holistic reform in each of these areas. 

Although the firm has spent only a short amount of time on the Grinnell campus, they have been a tremendous resource to the College thus far.

“They have been WebXing in on our Campus Emergency Preparedness meetings by video conference and answering questions,” Briscoe said. “I have been talking to them on the phone back and forth when different emergency situations come up. I call them when I want a little additional information and [to] talk with them.”

Briscoe and Dougharty stated that Grinnell College is better equipped to handle emergency situations compared to other institutions of similar size. 

“I think that we are a step ahead of most small colleges in that we have had—on the books and on the internet—a long-standing and very detailed plan for preparedness,” Dougharty said. “We do drills, we have a great relationship with our local fire and police departments.”

Nonetheless, there is always room for improvement. Recent advancements include linking all on-campus phones so that security notifications can be sent out simultaneously.

Additionally, there has been some discussion of installing public announcement systems in buildings and classrooms and outdoor notification system, which would include a siren and automated voice to articulate warnings and evacuation notices.

The Campus Emergency Preparedness Committee expects that collaboration and consultation with Margolis Healey will help streamline their future plans, whatever they turn out to be. 

“The consultants will look at [proposed plans] and they will give us advice on it based on best practices around the country [and] what other schools have in place,” Briscoe stated. 

Briscoe and Dougharty both stressed the multidimensional nature of the assessment and the coming changes. Due to the wide-ranging effects, these changes would affect everyone, provided input on the assessment is not limited to Campus Safety and Security. Rather, both Briscoe and Dougharty intend to open up the conversation about these changes to everyone. 

On Thursday, May 1 consultants from Margolis Healy and Associates were on campus to discuss with students, faculty and staff in an Open Forum on Emergency Preparedness.

For more information about current campus security plans, protocols and procedures visit the Campus Safety and Security website at

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