Preparedness panel discusses coronavirus

Ryan Nix | The Spectrum
From Left to right: Mason Rademachaer, Rian Nostrum, Jessica Jensen, Mike Borr, Michael Ellingson.

A panel of experts and higher officials discussed the challenges of disaster preparedness

Disaster is not something most think of… unless it’s your major. Students in emergency management gathered at the Memorial Union to discuss how prepared North Dakota State is for the worst with the preparedness panel on March 4.

The panel comprised of high ranking officials including the director of University Police, and the Student Body President. The discussion revolved around heavy and current topics including the university’s response to the current coronavirus outbreak and school shooting preparations.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

College campuses are high density and community based, making them prime locations for diseases to spread. The current coronavirus, now known as Covid-19, is a respiratory disease that has spread fast throughout the world and the United States with over 100,000 cases reported worldwide. 

The CDC is reporting that while most cases are mild. A study out of China reports that 16 percent of cases were reported as severe, with elderly people and people with underlying conditions bearing the brunt of Covid-19 (from a March 3 report).

NDSU has ramped up its specific response by convening a group of staff members on a weekly basis in order to keep a handle on the situation. There have also been regular email updates to students that include hygiene recommendation status reports and travel advisories including study abroad.

The task force is being headed by Mike Borr the Director of University Police Safety. Borr was appointed by the University President and will be the point person for the university’s response. The task force was originally a monthly meeting of staff from a verity of departments but now has taken on a weekly schedule.

“That group is being re-energized as this threat, you know, continues to grow across the globe,” Borr said.

“Essentially, right now, we’re in the discussion fazes of how we would respond if necessary given whatever would present itself.

So far the only change that has come out of the university is to studying abroad where programs are being canceled in three hard-hit countries where facilities’ management on sanitation has been ramped up to deal with the virus. This is according to the Fargo Forum and an email sent on March 6.

School Shooting Training

The group also discussed how NDSU could improve readiness when it comes to school shootings. 

Borr said that there are seminars during orientation on active shooter awareness, but there is competition for who gets to speak to incoming freshmen.

Jessica Jensen, assistant professor of Emergency Management, said when NDSU still had University 189 a teacher would present to students on active shooter training. This, of course, went away when NDSU made University 189 a non-requirement.

Even with a one-time course on active shooters, it takes reinforcement to fully prepare people according to Jensen. “What we need to see then, to address this issue, meaningfully, is better student, in general human, understanding of agency.”

This issue is something people can learn about and better prepare themselves for while not relying on a one-time training session according to Jensen.

On the residential side Rian Nostrum, the Director of Residence Life, talked about the problem of student engagement when it comes to active shooter training.

“When your parents send you to school, they also send you with free will, so I can’t make you do anything,” Nordstrom said.

“The reality is, is that other than those who are majoring in this type of a topic,” Nordstrom asked, “How many people are going to show up if I say ‘we’re going to have a floor meeting, we’re going to learn about active shooters.”

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