Extinguishing Danger: The prep behind major events on campus

The Emergency Operations Team shares the preparation that goes in to producing major campus events such as the Jon Bellion concert. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

The Emergency Operations Team shares the preparation that goes in to producing major campus events such as the Jon Bellion concert. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the UConn Fire Department (UCFD) had no emergencies at the Jon Bellion fall concert last Friday, accredited to the coordinated efforts of the Emergency Operations Team (EOT).

The EOT is a preparation coalition that plans for large events taking place on UConn campuses.

“This planning [for Bellion] has been very similar to the planning we have done under the new OEM model in the last year and a half,” UConn Fire Department Liaison Captain, Chris Renshaw said, “and that is a collaborative planning process with all of the stakeholders at the operations level for the university come together for the actual concert.”

There are three phases for UCFD and OEM when preparing for such an event: Planning, implementation and reflection.

Planning meetings include multiple different representatives from operations personnel, such as student affairs, UCFD, UCPD, parking services and transportation. These are times when units can work out their different goals to ensure the safety and enjoyment of those participating in the event.

After planning is completed, the event happens. Each arm will perform their job as discussed in the planning meeting, and they will come together and reflect in an “After Action Review” meeting, no more than a month after the event.

“This [the After Action Review] was implemented to capture what went well and what didn’t work as well as we had hoped,” Renshaw said,  “this helps for us to identify gaps and create the means to rectify mistakes for future events, capturing the lessons learned.”

The UConn Fire Department and OEM are not always the ones who initiate this process, as it is the organization planning the event, such as UConn Athletics for a sporting event, or Jorgenson for a theatrical performance, who start the process with UCFD and OEM as stakeholders.

There are many different events outside of the fall concert that require these stakeholder coloration meetings.

“There are roughly 12 significant events a year,” UCFD Chief John Mancini said: “They include: Move-In weekend, Halloween, the fall and spring Concerts, what was formally known as spring weekend and commencement. The other events can be big games at Gampel, shows at Jorgenson or major weather events.”

The response to weather events is similar to those pre-planned events but requires a different form of planning.

“For something like weather, it does come down to how quickly we see a reliable forecast,” said Renshaw. “We gauge our response as the weather become more accurate as the day’s progress. And if it’s a hurricane that is three days out, we then have those three days to prepare. We can then gear up that same mechanism [for more planned events] of those folks who are involved with a response on campus.”

When the event is too large for the forces at UConn, OEM will reach out to local and state bodies to assist with UConn’s response.  If the services provided by the state and local municipalities are needed elsewhere, UConn will then hire out contractors to complete the job.

“If there is a big snowstorm, they have to know we don’t have access to those outside resources and have to think outside of the box,” Mancini said.  “We had contactors on stand-by and they got here right away, which was pre-planning on their part.”

“Our main goal is to keep our venues safe, keep our staff and faculty safe, keep our visitors safe, our students safe and keep our performers safe,” Mancini continued. “This is a big university and things do happen, but we would like to stay on top of them.”

Elizabeth Charash is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at elizabeth.charash@uconn.edu.