How calling trees are employed to ensure safety

Floor captains exit last to ensure all students are evacuated in case of any emergency at school. Photo courtesy of stock.xchng

The university’s text messaging service—the “opt-in” system—directly notifies students, faculty and staff of campus emergencies. This is one way to help with communication in times of crisis.

Before that text is received, however, the crisis is communicated and cleared through the emergency calling tree. In case of an emergency, every building or department plays its part in making sure everyone is safe and then calls into the calling tree. This is the final step of several that the emergency plan has developed to keep everyone safe.

Each department, building or building section has an emergency evacuation plan. With over 32,000 students and sporadic class schedules, headcounts don’t work like they did in grade school. Here, faculty members are appointed positions to ensure efficient exit for everyone.

In the Losee Center, for example, each floor has an appointed captain and captain assistant. In an evacuation, LC floor captains can be identified in a neon vest and green hardhat. Floor captains make sure they’re the last to exit while the captain assistant aids evacuees to the parking lot for safety.

Once the floor captain rechecks for stragglers and clears an area, duct tape is used to block off the stairs and doors. This visual notification is the best way to alert or direct anyone left behind.

Tiffany Nez, second floor LC building captain, explained the fire drill performed in October took 12 minutes, “so it’s quite efficient and quick.”

Once the inside is cleared, the floor captain joins the assistant at the arranged meeting point—in this case, the LC second floor safety destination is paid parking lot L—they contact the building captain. The floor captains report if the floor is clear or not. If all are safe, they pass on that information through the calling tree.

The emergency calling tree is a set of guidelines for who contacts who and when, depending on the degree of emergency. Many buildings and building sections come up with their own exit strategies, but the calling tree stays the same for everyone.

The Library Writing Center Coordinator, Leigh Ann Copas, came up with the Writing Lab’s emergency exit strategy on her own. She taught it to the seven employed Writing Lab assistants. It is the responsibility of any lab assistant who is working at that time to carry through with the set evacuation plan.

“The plan is to grab the work schedule to see who’s here, make announcement, then clear out,” said Mike Edwards, a Writing Lab assistant. “Take the stairs down, go outside and the place of destination is across the street, by the bus stop.”

The destination is where and when the lab assistant or lab coordinator contacts the library building supervisor. Once they’re safe, they pass it on through the calling tree until every building is accounted for.