Olivet’s Emergency Operations Center Provides Stability and Structure

EOC handles coronavirus complications for University.

When the coronavirus pandemic threatened to disrupt business as usual at Olivet Nazarene University, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was ready. The EOC, organized with the intent to handle crises as they arise, was already in place when the University needed to adjust campus operations in mid-March.

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In recent years, members of the EOC have met periodically to discuss procedures for handling potential emergencies (such as a natural disaster or an active shooter scenario). The team was created to ensure that the University had the capacity and resources necessary to assess the impacts of theoretical emergencies and develop strategies to manage the various components of those emergencies. However, when the coronavirus pandemic began to loom as a real threat during the week of Olivet’s spring break, the team began to meet on a daily basis.

Kyle Olney, director of emergency management and the EOC, provided consistent structure and stability for the EOC. The group of around 35 faculty and staff members, representing various facets of campus life, met to discuss operational strategy, health and safety concerns, and how to communicate updates efficiently and effectively to students, faculty and staff members. The depth and breadth of the EOC’s representation allowed the team to make comprehensive recommendations to Olivet’s administrative team regarding policy changes and implementation strategies. 

After some of the initial large-scale decisions were made (including closing campus and moving learning online for the remainder of the semester), some members of the EOC continued to meet regularly to address student and family questions, to adjust operations for departments still functioning on campus, and to look ahead at what might need to be changed in the months to come. 

Dr. David Pickering, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Olivet, worked diligently as part of the EOC and was pleased with how the group collaborated in crisis. “I think ONU was served well by our EOC, and I was extremely proud of our team. Within the team, we all have various roles, and there is a lot of good discussion and debate about what needs to happen. We had been preparing for an EOC activation emergency for over five years, so seeing it all come together and everyone doing their part was really great.”

Mr. Olney said of the team, “While we couldn’t have envisioned a pandemic, our preparations were still extremely beneficial and enabled us to address things quickly.”

Olivet launched an emergency management team more than five years ago, after Dr. Bob Hull advocated for such a group. That foresight proved vital when COVID-19 majorly disrupted campus operations. Dr. Hull led the team from its infancy through December 2019 and continues to contribute to its success. 

Dr. Pickering added, “Many organizations did not already have a system in place to manage an emergency. When the coronavirus pandemic came about, we all knew our roles in the EOC and implemented those very effectively. We were very well prepared to jump right into the collaborative process of problem solving.”

For questions regarding COVID-19 procedures and responses, email healthalert@olivet.edu.

Published 5/4/2020
LB