In any crisis or emergency, WPI's foremost concern is for the protection of human life, health, and welfare. Protection of property and of the integrity and reputation of WPI are also critical.
WPI has an Emergency Response Team (ERT) that responds promptly and effectively in the case of a natural disaster or other emergency occurring on or affecting the WPI campus and its community. The ERT is made up of senior administrators who work together to manage the crisis from beginning to end, making determinations about the scope and nature of the response as well as coordinating communications about the crisis to all internal and external constituencies.
The primary goals of the ERT are to:
- Protect life and property
- Ensure appropriate communication with internal (campus) and external (parents, media, and other) audiences
- Alleviate human suffering and hardship
- Maintain and restore essential facilities and services
- Ensure continuity of operations
WPI's ERT is assembled whenever a natural disaster or other emergency threatens lives and/or property, or the continuation of business at the University. Each incident has its own set of considerations that demand an appropriate and specific response. The ERT works with operating strategies outlined in the University's Emergency Preparedness Manual.
While managing a crisis, the ERT strives to disseminate information that is both accurate and timely to the internal community and to external constituencies, including local emergency personnel and the media.
After a reasonable interval following the crisis, the ERT holds a formal debriefing to assess the outcome and response to the event and makes recommendations, if necessary, to improve its response in the future.
To ensure WPI's crisis management protocol is thorough and each member of the team understands his/her role in an emergency situation, the ERT holds regular non-crisis meetings and engages in tabletop exercises for scenario planning.
Examples of Crises
A crisis response situation is a critical incident or situation which poses a serious threat to the health, safety, or welfare of the students, faculty, staff, or administration of WPI or involves serious damage to University facilities, property, or equipment.
Some crises are not of a catastrophic nature, such as a limited crisis (one that can be handled by a department, such as a plumbing failure), a controversial crisis (one that involves a hate crime or a sexual assault/crime), or a safety crisis (such as a rash of car break-ins, non-life-threatening health matters, criminal actions reported on or near campus). The internal community will be advised if necessary about such crises through e-mailed safety alerts and/or advisories.
While it is difficult to anticipate all possible emergency situations or types of crises, the following examples represent categories of crises that could necessitate the deployment of the ERT:
- Multiple casualty incidents (active shooter or sniper)
- Disruptive behavior (serious classroom disturbance including the threat of violence, riot, hostage situation, bomb threat)
- Major fire (residence hall, fraternity/sorority house, student apartment complex)
- Building or other serious facility catastrophe
- Natural disaster (tornado, flood, blizzard, ice storm)
Timely and Accurate Communications
One member of the ERT serves as the primary communications resource to the internal community; another is designated as the official University spokesperson. Regular updates and information are disseminated both to the internal community and to the media, but only when that information is accurate.
The goals of effective crisis communications are to:
- Identify constituencies who should be informed
- Communicate facts about the crisis
- Minimize rumors
- Restore order and confidence
State of Emergency
Should WPI be operating under a state of emergency, timely information and instructions will be sent utilizing WPI Alert.