NWACUHO
Northwest Association of College & University Housing Officers

NWACUHO Featured Presentation: The Art & Science of Emergency Management in University Housing

By Josh Gana

Those who have worked in Residential Life know that responding to crisis situations in the halls can be a weekly (or daily) occurrence.  Most departments do a great job of training direct-service staff to prevent and manage behavioral crises, and hall directors gain significant on-the-job experience early in their careers.

What about the bigger incidents?  The fires, floods, earthquakes, epidemics, extreme weather, and terrorism?  As housing professionals advance in their careers into roles that require competency at the management and strategy levels of crisis management, the focus becomes organizational preparedness and response versus direct intervention. The ability to foster a ready and resilient organization is a key leadership attribute and can determine success in responding to these incidents that have a significant impact on a college campus.

The good news is that translating the knowledge, skills, and abilities that one gains in Residential Life (or in other roles for that matter) into the systematic approach known as the “science” of emergency management isn’t as difficult as you would think.  The featured presentation at the NWACUHO annual conference, “The Art and Science of Emergency Management in University Housing”, is a great starting point whether you attend in person in Spokane or join us online for the web stream.  In this session we’ll explore the emergency management cycle – mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery – with application to a university housing environment.

I come at this topic from a unique perspective: professionally I am responsible for the emergency management program for UW Housing & Food Services but much of my experience has been gained through formal training and volunteer service in community response organizations.  As President of a group that provides incident management support for search and rescue missions in King County, and, Logistics Section Chief for an organization that oversees emergency management for major events in the Seattle area, I have been “on the other side of the line”.  My hope is that this experience can help demystify this topic for university housing practitioners.

I always say that if you can walk away from a conference presentation with one or two good ideas that are relevant to your role or campus, the session has been a success.  Through a discussion on building an emergency management program tailored to your department’s needs and resources, as well as a review of incident case-studies and best practices, I’m confident that this session will be a success.

Josh Gana is Associate Director, Housing & Food Services at the University of Washington. He is a Past President of NWACUHO, Past President of the King County Incident Support Team, and is the Logistics Section Chief for the Seafair Emergency Management Group. He can be reached at jgana@uw.edu.

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