OP-EDS

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September 30, 2005

Designing for Disaster

The displacement of Gulf Coast college students in the wake of Hurricane Katrina should prompt college officials nationwide to take a hard look at their respective emergency disaster plans. The University of Chicago had the foresight to take the important step of examining its own emergency management plan even before the hurricane hit, but the plan seems to be no plan at all when it comes to specific procedures for the campus community.

While contingency plans themselves cost quite a lot, the designing of such plans uses a relatively small amount of resources, and going forward with serious planning should therefore be a no-brainer, regardless of how unlikely the disaster may be.

Rather than trying to design a plan to relocate the entire University if the campus was out of commission, which would be virtually impossible given our size, why don't we concentrate our efforts on arranging placement of our students at other schools? A practical, mutually beneficial alliance between the University and other schools of its caliber would allow for students from one affected school to temporarily enroll at another. The University would both have the option of using other schools if our students were displaced and the responsibility of accepting students from elsewhere. While it would be impossible for any university to host an entire student body, most could handle fifty or one hundred students. An agreement of considerable membership could provide all affected students with a temporary home in a time of need.

Though easier said than done, the University has both the capabilities and resources to move closer towards a genuine contingency plan, especially if they keep the interests of students in mind.