Environmental Health and Safety Preparedness at Colgate

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Colgate’s emergency management program is designed to maximize the University’s preparedness and strengthen the community’s safety in the event of public health crises and other emergencies.

Colgate’s Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) measures seek to continue the core mission of teaching and scholarship to the greatest extent possible, while also keeping the community safe.

Our Structure

Since 2010, Colgate has followed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Incident Management System (NIMS) for managing all kinds of crises — as well as planning and preparation. The NIMS Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized, flexible approach developed by FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency). 

The system outlines protocols, procedures, and training for the approximately 50 members of our campus emergency management team — myself included. The EOC represents all divisions and key functions of the University and undergo regular training. This practice enables a coordinated response among University divisions and allows Colgate to partner effectively with local, state, and federal agencies.

The ICS structure divides our emergency response staff into three sections: an incident commander, the emergency operations center (EOC), and the executive group. 

The EOC provides emergency response support in operations, planning, logistics, and communications, among other things. The executive group — the president and his cabinet — provides guidance and overall direction.

The campus Emergency Response Plan (ERP) provides the basic framework for emergency response and incident command, and we activate the ERP in the event of on-campus emergencies, as well as, local, regional, or national emergencies that will impact the University’s community and its ability to function.

In any given activation, the most qualified person on the scene is chosen to be the incident commander. For example, during a public health incident, the director of Student Health Services would be the incident commander. If there is a fire on campus, the fire safety and emergency preparedness manager would be the incident commander, at least until the fire department arrives. 


Our preparedness team undergoes monthly training sessions. We have an emergency management strategic planning group that intentionally designs training exercises based on the crisis most likely to affect the community at any given time.

In recent years, we have conducted training on meningitis, active shooter, residence hall fire, hazardous material spill, severe weather, cyber security, and missing student scenarios, among others. 

In several cases, our training sessions have preceded actual events by only days or weeks, and our ability to respond and act in each of those cases was a testament to the training we have received. 

The instance where a student contracted a deadly form of meningitis in 2018 is a perfect example of how the Colgate community worked together to keep her and others safe. (Read about it: “Patient Zero,” Colgate Magazine, Spring 2019).

Emergency Communications

We realize that when an emergency arises on campus, you may hear about it from your student very quickly. You will want to know what is happening, and what Colgate is doing to keep your student safe.

Please understand that, as an emergency unfolds, Colgate must direct communications to the campus community first, focusing resources on managing the emergency and keeping the community safe.  

In the event of an emergency, telephones (both landlines and cell phones) will be critical tools for our emergency managers. Please refrain from calling Colgate for information; instead, look for information on colgate.edu and in emails.

In extended situations where the scope of an incident and those who are affected changes over time, Colgate will provide regular updates as appropriate. Where necessary, our communiques to family members might also include information on how to support your student during or following the incident.

We will make every effort to keep parents and family members well informed in as timely a manner as possible, and your patience and understanding will be much appreciated. 

Supporting Your Student

Parents and family members can be effective partners with Colgate in addressing environmental health and safety matters such as COVID-19, as well as when other kinds of campus issues or emergencies arise. 

When it comes to public health, remind your student to practice good hygiene at all times, whether on campus or off. They will receive a tutorial, and can also look for public health education posters on bulletin boards and screens around campus. 

Impress upon them the importance of heeding those guidelines — as well as both University and national safety guidelines more generally — to ensure that the choices they make are safe for themselves and do not create risk for others.

Encourage them to follow official channels of communication and to reach out for confirmation, rather than contributing to the rumor mill. Colgate staff members are always happy to answer students’ questions or concerns.

Stay informed

Colgate University Information & Updates: colgate.edu/covid19