Colleges have only “mixed awareness” of DHS, Justice and Education emergency preparedness resources pertinent to them despite efforts by those departments to publicize these resources in a variety of ways, GAO has said.
Colleges have developed emergency plans involving personnel from offices such as public safety, student affairs and facilities, addressing a range of potential events ranging from active shooters to extreme weather. That approach is consistent with federal emergency management principles, as is their conduct of drills, GAO said after a review of 18 schools.
Agencies meanwhile offer resources–some of them specifically tailored to colleges–including tabletop exercises, guidance documents, one-on-one technical assistance, conferences and webinars. While the three departments publicize their resources through email lists, websites and other methods, GAO found that they are not falling short in communicating with colleges. For example, only about a quarter of colleges subscribe to one key resource, the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools list, which includes a community of practice and links to federal resources and training.
“Federal officials and other stakeholders acknowledged this mixed awareness and identified potential causes, such as college emergency managers having networks comprised of local officials who are more likely to know about federal resources for local agencies versus those for colleges, or some college officials devoting limited time to researching federal resources for various reasons,” a report said.
The three departments agreed with its recommendations to identify opportunities to improve the dissemination of such information.