Preparing for the Unpredictable

As a community, University Park prepares for a full calendar of events. Festival of the Arts in the summer, the return of students and football in the fall, THON in the winter and graduation in the spring. But, as demonstrated by recent local flooding, there can be diversions, disruptions and even disasters that require advance planning. Penn State’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) works to ensure that things run smoothly no matter what may occur.

When people imagine emergencies, natural disasters are most often considered, and Emergency Management has complex plans available for severe weather events and power outages. However, true preparedness also involves considering the impact of a contagious disease outbreak, hazardous material identification and debris management. As a matter of course, Penn State's Office of Environmental Health and Safety routinely helps ensure that all regulatory compliance continues, while Police & Public Safety ensure the security of campus buildings and utility systems. 

The OEM is currently completing business continuity plans for the University Park campus. Plans include a variety of scenarios that might cause work to stop, including a power outage, student unrest or the process for dealing with a work force stoppage in the unlikely event of a strike. The University-wide plans will address immediate impacts to units such as Housing & Food Services and the Office of Physical Plant. However, other units also will prepare plans, including Student Affairs, Procurement Services, Police & Public Safety, the Applied Research Laboratory and even University Libraries.

Since 2008 the OEM has participated in an assessment of its emergency management program and held two large functional exercises, developing training for a multitude of groups and updating its capacity for communication through traditional and social media.

For more information about what-to-do scenarios and how to prepare for emergencies, visit

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Last Updated July 03, 2013