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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Educational Administration and Leadership

First Advisor

Norena Badway

First Committee Member

Dennis Brennan

Second Committee Member

Delores McNair

Third Committee Member

Carol Hackley


The purpose of this study was to analyze critical elements for crisis planning at seven private four-year residential colleges and universities in Northern California. The researcher reviewed each campus's written crisis plans and interviewed campus officials in charge of leading their respective institution's crisis planning efforts. The data revealed that the threat of natural disasters was a common impetus for formal crisis planning. Institutions borrowed information from other campuses and public and private organizations to develop institutional crisis plans. Outside agencies both contributed to and gained from collaboration with these institutions, although all institutions sought a degree of self-sufficiency for food and water supplies. Emergency Operations Centers were designed to focus staffing and resources in a single, in some cases moveable, location in the event of a crisis. Campuses in this study invested considerable resources in systems of communication with students, faculty, and staff, including sirens, digital displays, and Connect-ED, but individual subscription remained a barrier to the smooth functioning of Connect-ED. Multi-layered communication systems enhance a campus's ability to communicate with all stakeholders. Philosophies varied on specificity versus flexibility as the framework for crisis planning. Campuses used threat assessment teams as proactive intervention to identify students who pose a threat to themselves or others. The State of California Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS), which became a template for the Federal National Incident Management System (NIMS), has become the unifying factor for crisis planning among these institutions. SEMS/NIMS, while not a mandate, emerged as a driving force for planning, because compliance with SEMS/NIMS is a requirement for receiving federal disaster emergency reimbursement for property damage. Practicing the plan, through tabletop and functional simulation exercises, allowed campus officials and civic safety agencies to develop a shared vocabulary and procedures. Crisis planning is a means to help a campus prepare for and respond to an incident in an effective manner, thus reducing harm to people and property damage. Although crisis planning cannot completely prevent incidents from occurring, appropriate and advanced planning and preparation can allow campus leaders to contain both the duration of and the damage caused by major crises.





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