NAIT wants everyone on campus to be prepared. Last week, NAIT held its first Emergency Preparedness and Safety Week. The events took place over the course of four days, culminating in a speech at the Shaw Theatre by instructor Josh Bowen on handling active aggressors on campus. Being the inaugural event, it’s NAIT’s push to grow what Charmaine Gentles, emergency management and business continuity manager, calls a “culture of safety.”
“Everyone has a role in emergency management and safety at NAIT,” said Gentles. “The purpose of us having EP Safety Week is it’s one of our activities to act to grow a culture of emergency preparedness at NAIT.”
Last year, two major incidents (the student fall in the CAT Building and G-Wing Fire) made NAIT an active participant in the need for preparedness. Gentles said while those circumstances did play a role in the creation of EP Safety Week, NAIT was already looking at new ways to develop in this area.
“There were already plans afoot to revamp NAIT’s emergency management program. Those events gave NAIT the opportunity – and our first responders the opportunity – to test some of the plans we have in place: our communications plans, our response plans, how we interface with our external first responders…but it’s not necessarily in response to those events.”
Not only is the purpose of the weeklong program to give students the skills and the knowledge for emergencies, it’s also about increasing awareness of the helping services around campus. Which is the same theme discussed by NAITSA’s CalliRae Barker and Clint Galloway: “gaps in communication.”
“Also it is our hope to educate staff and students about the services and resources that NAIT does offer, that does protect a person’s well-being, their safety during their time here. Also, before during and after an emergency situation,” said Gentles.
Along with the promotion of a safe culture on campus, NAIT has been recruiting for Emergency Wardens. Formerly called Fire and Safety Wardens, these recruits have a fuller job description now, she said.
“Their role is to essentially assist staff, students, visitors, to evacuate buildings in the event there is an emergency and shepherd them to the appropriate muster points.”
The target recruit is a NAIT staff member as the high student turnover rate makes it nearly impossible to take students in. With the amount of time needed to train, it doesn’t make much sense to do it in their view.
“We have revamped NAIT’s emergency management program with a lot of planning, our changes to policy, response plans which are going on behind the scenes,” continued Gentles. “And the Wardens are just a complimentary piece to the bigger picture.”
Gentles reiterates that the effect the program gives to students reinforces NAIT is doing everything they can to be a safe campus.
“We hope it triggers something in your mind that NAIT is taking the initiative
to ensure our safety while we’re here as students and staff. We want to encourage them, as I said, to build that culture of awareness to be sensitized for ‘what do I do’ in the event – God forbid – some emergency happens.”
On Feb.6 a student fell from the 5thfloor of the CAT Building and four days
later, a fire in the G-Wing caused $6.3 million in damages, shutting down the area for the rest of the semester.
– Michael Menzies, Senior Editor