Procedures and resources are in place to respond to any threats to campus security — a new director of emergency management services wouldn’t have it any other way. Staff Reporter Harrison Korn reports.
If a violent ice storm, electricity outage, pandemic flu, bomb scare or shooting spree were to hit campus, Maria Bouffard will have planned Yale’s response.
The University’s first director of emergency management services, Bouffard is in charge of making sure that Yale is prepared if disaster strikes — including everything from a flu pandemic to a flood to a terrorist bombing. Early last month, for instance, she sat down with other key officials from around campus to conduct a “table-top drill” to plan for a possible severe ice storm on campus.
Yale officials say Bouffard, who took office Dec. 1, will manage the emergency operations plan for the University and manage the Yale ALERT system and emergency communications system
“A lot of the work has been underway for a number of years,” said Deputy University Secretary Martha Highsmith, to whom Bouffard reports. “But what we’ve realized is that as the University has gotten more and more complex, it’s not something that we wanted to leave spread among a lot of different offices.”
One of Bouffard’s main tasks, she said in an interview, is ensuring continuity of operations and critical functions if an emergency strikes.
Highsmith offered an example: If the facility that houses the computers that control University payroll was knocked out of service for whatever reason, a continuity-of-operations plan would ensure that people would still be paid, for instance. Bouffard, for her part, said she is planning on working with individual departments within the University to create a continuity-of-operations system and to practice implementing it.
Before coming to Yale, Bouffard worked for the Red Cross for 11 years, the last five in the regional office in the Southwest helping Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico prepare for and respond to disasters. During Hurricane Katrina, she was part of the man agement team that ran the Houston Astrodome, where 55,000 refugees from Louisiana took shelter in the days after the storm.
“It was a fantastic experience,” she said. “I would not trade it for the world.”
Before working in the Southwest, Bouffard worked at the Hartford branch of the Red Cross. She was working there on September 11 and aided in relief efforts in New York City on the day of the attacks. Bouffard said her experience working with local, state and federal agencies, as well as with volunteer organizations, will help her with her work here at Yale.
Highsmith added that Bouffard’s work should not be affected by possible budget cuts. “The position is less buying stuff and more managing the human capital that’s already here,” Highsmith said.
Bouffard said she is hoping to put together a more comprehensive Web site in the near future so people in the Yale community can learn how to prepare themselves for an emergency. (An existing Web site outlines emergency evacuation procedures — Davenport College, for example, would be evacuated to the University Theatre — and safety resources such as cots and blankets.)
Last month, the U.S. Department of Education issued a report calling for institutions of higher education to develop emergency management plans. Yale is not the first school to create a director of emergency management position — other schools, including Cornell and Boston University, have had similar positions for years.