Planning for the worst: Emergency Management prepares hundreds of buildings

URBANA — Emergencies can happen anywhere, and at any time. The Emergency Management bureau at the University of Illinois Police Department works full-time to prepare for the eventual campus emergency, whether it is fire, severe weather or another kind of active threat.

In recent years, the four-person team has coordinated the completion of 325 (and counting) building emergency action plans, which are documents designed to assist building occupants with their emergency planning and response efforts.

The effort is no small task – OSHA regulations require continuous updating of contact lists, emergency procedures, and ongoing training, among other mandates. The four-person Emergency Management team is responsible for training thousands of people and keeping hundreds of building plans up to date.

Any single violation could result in fines up to $10,000 per day, per violation. Lt. Todd Short believes the aggressive planning efforts in recent years have saved the university upwards of $1 million.

“There’s a huge amount of data we have to capture to make sure we’re in compliance,” Short said. “It takes a very proactive office filled with tenacious people to accomplish this.”

The team has taken steps to streamline that process – a fill-in-the-blank template on the University of Illinois Police website to make completing the plan simple. “It’s like TurboTax,” Short says. UIPD also provides video-taped training for employees who cannot be in attendance at in-person training sessions.

But even more important than staying in compliance is ensuring students, faculty, staff and visitors are ready for any emergency that may happen. Severe weather is a constant concern in central Illinois, and college campuses are a regular target for people who want to do harm to others.

The emergency plans give forethought to assembly areas, storm refuge areas and the ways people communicate during emergencies in their buildings. They also outline procedures for building occupants about what to do in an emergency.

“These are situations where your ability to act quickly can save your life,” Short said. “It just takes five to ten minutes to review your building’s emergency action plan.”

The team provides resources for class instructors and general guidelines for dealing with any kind of building emergency. Those resources are available at

The effort of the Emergency Management bureau was instrumental in helping the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign become the state’s first “Ready to Respond” campus in 2014.