Ep. 01 Department Overview

Appalachian State University Emergency Planner and host Debi Trivette gives listeners an overview of the university's Environmental Health, Safety and Emergency Management.


Debi Trivette: Thank you for joining me for the first podcast about emergency management at Appalachian State University. My Name is Debi Trivette and I'm the emergency planner for App State, and I want to provide some information about our Office of Emergency Management and the functions that it provides.

A little bit of background information about our department. The Office of Emergency Management is one of the offices that merged in 2011 to form the Department of Environmental Health, Safety and Emergency Management. These are two totally different disciplines. Environmental health safety is based on occupational health and safety administration requirements, and emergency management is its own discipline.

Jason Marshburn is the director of environmental health safety and emergency management and he is also the emergency manager for Appalachian State. Jason holds a bachelor degree in emergency management from Western Carolina University and he also holds a master degree in safety, security and emergency management from Eastern Kentucky University. Jason is also a certified North Carolina emergency manager. I am a certified North Carolina emergency manager and I'm currently taking my final semester of classes to graduate in December with a bachelor of science degree in emergency and disaster management from Western Carolina University.

Jason and I have comprised the Office of Emergency Management for Appalachian State. One of the functions that I provide is building an emergency team program for the university. As I'm talking to folks across campus, I'm finding out that lots of people don't even know we have an emergency management office, and if they know we have one, they don't know what we do. So, that's why I'm doing podcasts to try to introduce our office in what we do and give people just a little bit of information about what we do have in place here at Appalachian. We want everybody to be safe, and we want to be prepared to take care of whatever emergencies may arise.

Emergency management covers a lot of areas. Some of the things that we're involved in include having an emergency operation center when we need to activate that. We staff command posts for every home football game, some large event concerts and special events as needed. We work with community partners. We are on the local emergency planning committee for Watauga County. We assist our community partners when they need help. For instance, a month ago or somewhere close to that, we were asked to work in the command post to help with the search for a missing person in Watauga County. We're often collaborating with our community partners as well as asking them when we need help on campus, when something happens.

We're behind the scenes top program, so when there are protests and stuff like that, we're monitoring radio just to make sure everything goes well, which, thank goodness, you know, we've had a few protests on campus and they've all been great, there's been no problems whatsoever. But, we're in the background just in case.

Often the weather, let's say the floods that we've had recently, the waters inundated our campus buildings ... we're coordinating resources and getting information out, pulling information back in just so we can help do what we need to do to take care of, of our campus, keeping everybody safe and keeping things running as much as possible.

We'll talk a little bit more about the Emergency Operations Center. The function of the Emergency Operations Center is to coordinate information and resources. So, we have folks that are staffed in the Emergency Operations Center from all over campus. The departments that are part of the Emergency Operations Center include Academic Affairs, Athletics, Auxiliary Services, Human Resources, Information Technology, University Communications, University Police, Business Affairs, the Chancellor's Office, Environmental Health Safety and Emergency Management, General Counsel, the Holmes Center, New River Light and Power, Parking and Traffic, which is now Parking, Physical Plant, Student Affairs, Student Health and University Housing.

So, the folks that, that we have from these areas, their function is that these are, these are people that have decision-making abilities. Like the Business Affairs, they would be people that could bring us funding to take care of whatever the emergency is.

The Chancellor's Office, our representative, and the EOC helps coordinate information with the Chancellor's Cabinet for decisions that need to be made, policy decisions that need to be made back and forth.

The Physical Plant, of course, they are on the grounds workers, they, they get things done, they fix things. Students, student housing, you know Student Health — all of these folks have functions that are very important depending on what the emergency or disaster is.

Now a way that I like to think about who comes to emergency operation sooner for disasters. Our Emergency Operation Center is set up with what we call emergency support functions. These functions are in line with Federal Emergency Management guidelines. We have 15 of these functions. I like to think that they're our toolbox. We can pull out whichever tool we need for whatever we're working on.

For instance, if we were working on a roof and we needed a hammer to nail in the roof nails, we wouldn't pull out a pipe wrench, necessarily, that we would want to work for plumbing. So, if we need Health Services, we pull them in. If we need New River Light and Power, we pull them in. It would be a very, very bad day at Appalachian State if we needed every one of those support functions because it means something horrible had happened, lots of something horrible's. So, we pull in whoever we need to take care of the situation at hand.

Those folks that staff the Emergency Operation Center are also part of the Emergency Management Task Force, and the Emergency Management Task Force meets on a bimonthly basis in person and we go through policies, we talk about things on campus, we go through plans and stuff. We all come together to figure out what's the best way to take care of emergency situations at Appalachian State. On the months that we don't meet in person, we have exercises through our virtual Incident Management Software and that's what we used to get communications and information out to the folks that need to know during emergency situations. So, we exercise and practice that function.

Also, the Office of Emergency Management provides exercises or coordinates, if they don't provide exercises, for campus. For instance, active shooter exercises, mass casualty exercises — different things to exercise to see where there are gaps. We invite our community partners in, we invite different departments across campus, we have students participate, but we want to see where those gaps are that we need to concentrate on to make plans to cover those gaps and to make sure that we're doing everything we can to be prepared for whatever situation we're faced with.

Through our Building Emergency Team Program, we do building-specific exercises. Lots of times those will be active shooter-based, because that's what folks are interested in now, but we can do them for any type thing. I did a table top with Edwin Duncan on flooding because, you know, our building gets flooded.

There are many, many things that Emergency Management is involved in, and in future podcasts, we will talk about different aspects of emergency management. Thank you very much for joining me today and please join me again next month for another podcast episode about Emergency Management at Appalachian State University.

For more information about workshops and different emergency topics, please go to our website https://emergency.appstate.edu, and for questions or comments, please email safety@appstate.edu. Thank you very much.