Emergency planning is a community effort

Flagstaff Fire Department
Flagstaff Fire Department
The confined space drill, conducted on the site of the new Science and Health building, was a joint exercise with Mortenson Construction, Flagstaff Fire Department, NAUPD and Guardian Medical Transport. The drill required deployment of the fire department’s Special Operations Rapid Response Team to assess air quality levels in a tunnel under the construction area. Click on the photo to see more images of the event.

Determining unknowns is critical for first responders arriving on a scene of an incident: How many victims are there? How will emergency personnel enter the site? What are the risks to their safety? While not all questions can be answered in advance, Northern Arizona University has been taking steps to enhance communication with local law enforcement agencies and fire departments to lessen the unknowns.

Marc Burdiss, NAU’s director of emergency management, recently coordinated a drill with the Flagstaff Fire Department, NAU Police Department and Mortenson Construction to simulate rescue of an individual from a confined space. The exercise allowed the agencies to test communication systems, determine best practices and gain greater understanding with one another’s needs, practices and increase familiarity with campus logistics.

“The campus has the highest concentration of people in the city at any given time and it is critical to streamline how emergency response takes place,” Burdiss said. “Building relationships with our first responders also ensures we can request and receive appropriate resources in a timely manner.”

Burdiss meets regularly with other emergency managers in the community and brings together the university’s advisory group for training, tabletop exercises and response planning. The exercises allow the university to be prepared when an incident occurs while meeting requirements under the Clery Act.

As NAU continues to plan for emergencies and practice response, Burdiss will lead the charge in bringing stakeholders together. Up next for the university is the Great Arizona ShakeOut, a statewide earthquake drill, on Oct. 17.