ABERDEEN, S.D. – This summer, Northern State University officials fine-tuned their emergency preparedness policies thanks to an exercise led by the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management and Brown County Emergency Management.
The tabletop exercise, which also involved the South Dakota Department of Health, consisted of talking through a potential emergency scenario – in this case, a pandemic event. Scott Meints, Brown County Emergency Management Director, said tabletop exercises test things such as policy, procedure and staffing levels.
Overall, Northern did well with the exercise.
“We gave them some things to think about and some things to do,” Meints said. “And that’s why you do exercises like this. There’s always something you can improve on.”
Oftentimes when it comes to emergency planning, it’s difficult for an entity to envision every potential need, said Randy Maddox, Region 2 Coordinator for the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management.
“It’s a realization for them,” Maddox said. “People never think about facilities and the size of facilities and the room it takes.”
Will Tweak Plan Based on Exercise
The exercise brought out topics such as what the county and state will and won’t do during an emergency. Now, Maddox said, Northern officials will sit down and tweak their plan based on this exercise.
“We gave them some training tips and some classes to take,” Maddox said.
Meints said their agencies conduct exercises across the board with colleges, first responders, business owners and organizations to make sure they’re prepared. The hope is that training for one type of emergency (in Northern’s case with the recent exercise, a pandemic) will make them think about their policies and procedures regarding other types of emergencies (such as a fire).
“We hope that we gave them enough generic stuff to be able to look at other policies and procedures around the campus that this will fit into,” Meints said.
Safety Advice for Everyone
Their safety advice for people includes: Be aware of messages during an emergency, and know where to get accurate information, such as through 211 or campus alert, said Patti Woods, Assistant Director of Emergency Management for Brown County.
Maddox recommended keeping a survival kit, with items such as a case of water, first aid supplies, granola bars and sanitizing wipes. But, he said, don’t be afraid of what could happen.
“You’ve got to live life and just know that there are people who are preparing for the what ifs,” Maddox said.
Meints agreed – enjoy life, but stay focused.
“If something does happen, you need to keep an open mind and open ears, and be ready to react,” Meints said. “Have your own plan. Preparedness is the name of the game here.”
Other NSU Preparedness Training
Earlier this year, Northern employees also had the option to complete campus safety training offered by the Aberdeen Police Department. APD offered ALICE active shooter training to faculty and staff across campus. ALICE – an options-based program that stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate – is a method the APD says works well in school settings.
This spring, employees from across campus also elected to attend Mental Health First Aid for Higher Education training, sponsored by the NSU Campus Community Coalition and NSU Counseling Center. This course was geared toward training employees how to react and help someone facing a mental health or substance use challenge.
The South Dakota Office of Emergency Management is part of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.
For more information regarding Northern’s emergency preparedness activities, please contact NSU Director of Communications and Marketing Justin Fraase at Justin.Fraase@northern.edu.
About Northern State University
Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $55 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.