UConn participated in a “FEMA Virtual Tabletop Exercise” preparing for “civil unrest” situations 

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The University of Connecticut participated in a “FEMA Virtual Tabletop Exercise” preparing for “civil unrest” situations on Jul. 7, 2022.  

The departments involved in the training included University Safety, Facility Operations, University Communications, Student Affairs, the Office of General Counsel and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Other representatives from other universities, health care systems, municipalities, federal agencies and a Tribal nation also took part in the training. 

A “civil disturbance” means “activity such as a demonstration, riot, or strike that disrupts a community and requires intervention to maintain public safety,” according to the official FEMA glossary. 

UConn Spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz provided a full-description of the event. 

“This Virtual Tabletop Exercise (VTTX) is designed around events in the state that lead to civil unrest and protests. The VTTX involves key personnel discussing simulated scenarios in an informal setting and can be used to assess plans, policies, training, and procedures,” Reitz wrote. 

The format of the training also “included three discussion modules, local discussion with guided questions facilitated by an on-site facilitator and brief-outs from each participating location, after each module,” according to Reitz.  

When asked if this training was a response to “civil unrest” situations as was seen in the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, Reitz made clear that this FEMA training was not meant to combat any one group. 

“…to be clear, the event did not focus on that group or any other specific organizations or ideologies; nor were there any scenarios presented that discussed BLM gatherings locally or elsewhere,” Reitz said. 

UConn’s response to a “civil unrest” situation is to follow an “All-Hazards approach” while upholding the rights of all individuals, according to Reitz. 

“UConn follows the National Incident Management Systems (NIMS). This includes taking an All-Hazards approach that provides the University community with an emergency management framework that guides UConn’s ability to handle an event or incident,” Reitz said. “UConn’s emergency operations plan contains a checklist in the event of civil unrest that is designed to provide overall coordination considerations for such an incident.  It’s UConn’s policy to uphold the rights of all individuals, which includes the right to free speech and the right to peaceably assemble on public property.” 

Throughout the training, “the participants and organizers emphasized the need to protect the rights to assembly and free speech, and to ensure that safety and response planning includes those considerations,” Reitz wrote.  

An “All-Hazard approach” involves taking in all potential threats and developing a plan in response. According to FEMA, “there are many different threats or hazards. The probability that a specific hazard will impact your business is hard to determine. That’s why it’s important to consider many different threats and hazards and the likelihood they will occur.” 

Reitz also noted that UConn has participated in many FEMA training exercises over the years, including active shooter training.  

“Some of the other recent FEMA trainings in which UConn has participated over the past few years have included: scenarios envisioning severe weather (to include hurricanes and ice storms), responses in case of a nuclear incident, infectious disease response, avian influenza, vehicle ramming incident, and family reunification during and after a crisis,” Reitz wrote. “Others are being organized, including a flood mitigation and safety exercise later this academic year in addition to the on-going response and recovery from the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Lessons learned from this “FEMA Virtual Tabletop Exercise” and others may also be incorporated into any upcoming revisions of the UConn Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).  

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