Environmental Health and Safety Preparedness at Colgate

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As national and international communities work to contain the global spread of COVID-19, Colgate’s team of staff and faculty members across campus continues preparations to provide for a safe environment for living and learning, with the priority always being the health and well-being of our community.

Work is well underway to develop a number of specific plans related to the potential impacts of COVID-19 in the event that the illness appears in the region. Members of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) are meeting regularly to make educated decisions based on the latest recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the New York State Department of Health (DOH), and the Madison County Department of Health. 

Health-related measures taken will be in line with CDC and DOH recommendations, as well as other guidance for institutions of higher education. The University is also working to establish a number of contingencies to minimize potential disruptions to academic and business operations on and off campus. 

Additional updates will be shared in a communication to campus next week, including advice related to spring recess, off-campus study updates, and details about the preparedness planning that has been ongoing since January.

  1. Faculty, staff, and students traveling during spring recess should avoid countries with a CDC level-3 advisory. In accordance with CDC guidelines, anyone returning from a country with a level-3 advisory must return to their home for 14 days prior to returning to campus. In the event that a student is unable to return home for the recommended 14-day isolation period, plans are in place to provide for self-isolation locations on campus. Faculty, staff, or students who require self-isolation should inform Student Health Services, and the University will assist students in following the CDC guidance for self-isolation protocols. 
  2. Should an individual be identified as having been exposed to COVID-19, or if they return from a CDC level-3, or Department of State level-4 country, the University is developing contingency plans for continuing academic progress for students under self isolation, where possible. Students should be cognizant that it will not be possible for all courses to be facilitated remotely and may wish to reconsider their travel plans accordingly and in consideration of the CDC travel advisories.
  3. Students concerned about the status of upcoming extended study and other off-campus academic travel should remain in contact with their group leaders. The final determination of the status of those groups will be shared directly with participants in the event of schedule changes or cancellations. 
  4. Continue to follow good hygiene practices. Avoid close contact with people who are sick; wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; stay home if you are sick; cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  5. If you think you may have missed a COVID-19 campus update, keep up to date with all of the communications, and find a wealth of informative links, at colgate.edu/covid19.

Colgate’s Preparedness Structure

Since 2010, Colgate has followed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Incident Management System (NIMS) for responding to all campus incidents and emergencies, as well as planning and preparation.

The NIMS Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized, flexible approach developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It outlines protocols, procedures, and training for the approximately 50 members of our campus emergency management team. These staff and faculty members represent all divisions and key functions of the University and undergo regular training. This practice 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, 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 campus, local, regional, or national emergencies.

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 is 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 arrived. 

EOC Training

Colgate’s preparedness team conducts one training session per month. The emergency management strategic planning group intentionally designs training exercises based on the crisis most likely to affect the community at any given time.

In several cases, training has preceded actual events, and the University's ability to respond and act in each of those cases is a testament to how well the EOC staff and the executive group are trained. 

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).