UCA, Conway Emergency Personnel Hold Disaster Exercise

The University of Central Arkansas and the City of Conway emergency personnel took part in an exercise to review the university’s emergency operations plans.

More than 70 UCA faculty, staff, and administrators participated in “Natural Disaster 2011,” a table top exercise designed to generate discussion among UCA officials and Conway fire and police about the university’s response to a natural disaster. Provisions under the federally mandated Clery Act requires the university to test its emergency response.

The UCA Police Department facilitated the exercise, which took place Nov. 30 at the Brewer-Hegeman Conference Center.

The group was presented a scenario where a tornado struck the campus at night. The twister demolished the Pepsi Center and New Hall and Stadium Park Apartments were severely damaged. Lewis Science Center had major structural damage. Students were in the facilities at the time, the group was told. Also, there was a campus wide power outage and communications were limited.

For four hours, the group discussed challenges the university personnel would face if such a scenario hit the campus. Department heads provided information about plans in place to respond to the disaster and the need for additional resources. The group also talked about how the university would operate following the tornado.

UCA Police Chief Larry James said the exercise allowed officials to evaluate the existing emergency operations plans and identify areas of need for improvement. The campus wide preparedness initiative involved departments from housing to food services.

“As the exercise made obvious to us all, when it comes to the safety of our students, emergency preparedness is everyone’s business,” he said. “The student-focused mentality and the leadership displayed during the exercise should make us all proud to be a part of the University of Central Arkansas.”

Officials will create a report on the key issues noted during the exercise along with periodic updates on departmental progress as the individual departments report on their efforts.

“The disaster preparedness exercise was excellent,” said Interim President Tom Courtway. “I appreciate the work of UCA Police Chief Larry James and his department in coordinating the event, and I also thank all faculty, staff and Conway agencies for their participation. The knowledge and information gained from this exercise will ensure that UCA can respond in an effective and timely manner to these types of emergencies when timing and proper planning are critical for our campus community.”