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Study: Colleges Lack Confidence in Disaster Preparedness

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By Christine Dellert

A new University of Central Florida study found that some U.S. colleges and universities might not be as well prepared for emergencies or disaster situations as school leaders would like.

Of more than 100 campus safety leaders surveyed, UCF Associate Professor Naim Kapucu found that only 13 percent of respondents - a mix of emergency management, public safety and police officials - said they were "very confident" that their campuses would be disaster resilient.

Campus security is an issue of primary concern for colleges and universities, especially since the tragic 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech and other high-profile incidents of campus violence across the nation.

Both the UCF Office of Emergency Management and UCF's Center for Public and Nonprofit Management are involved with improving and researching emergency preparedness. UCF received a grant last year from the U.S. Department of Education to improve its disaster and emergency management plans.

"Colleges and universities across the country should focus on promoting a culture of preparedness on their campuses and reducing individuals' lack of knowledge or complacency in the event of a disaster," said Kapucu, who directs the Center for Public and Nonprofit Management in the College of Health and Public Affairs.

With help from the federal Emergency Management Higher Education grant, UCF has formed an advisory council of university, law enforcement and homeland security officials from across the region. Its purpose is to better facilitate long-lasting partnerships and better prepare UCF and other Central Florida institutions for possible threats.

"At UCF, the safety and security of students and the university community is our No. 1 priority," said Jeff Morgan, the university's emergency management coordinator. "We continue to enhance our many alert systems that inform our university community during emergencies and to provide extensive training for students, faculty and staff members."

The UCF Office of Emergency Management also leads efforts to educate the university community on how to best prepare for disasters.

UCF already has in place a series of emergency notification systems called UCF Alert. These tools include outdoor sirens, emergency text messages and e-mails, the university's main Web site, radio station WUCF-89.9 FM and social media sites.

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