News: Press Releases

UMass Amherst campus photo
July 20, 2016

UMass wins approval of federal and state hazard mitigation plans

  • The UMass System
Awarded $1 million grant for backup generators at campuses

BOSTON – Reflecting the university’s “complete and unshakable commitment to safety,” the University of Massachusetts has received state and federal approval of plans designed to improve the way it prepares for and responds to natural threats -- and has won $1 million in state grants, President Marty Meehan announced today.

The $1 million in state grants funded the purchase of emergency generators that further strengthen the safety infrastructure.

“This achievement is the result of careful study, analysis and planning at each campus to assure that we are as prepared as we can be for any natural event that we may face,” UMass President Marty Meehan said. “This plan is just one example of how we are thinking ahead and are making sure we are protecting our students, our campus communities and the assets that have been entrusted to us.”

Other steps that UMass has taken to protect safety:

  • Quarterly meetings that bring together police chiefs, environmental health and safety directors and emergency management directors from each campus to share best practices, to foster coordination and collaboration and to propose and evaluate new system-wide safety initiatives.
  • Active-shooter/terrorist-threat training exercises.
  • Established a reporting system that quickly determines the location and safety of UMass students studying abroad when events warrant.
  • Deployed security cameras and Emergency Notification Systems on all campuses

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) have approved the university’s multi-campus plan that will help identify and protect students, faculty and staff, buildings and critical services like heat, electricity and data storage from potential hazards, according to Jeffrey Hescock, director of University Emergency Management for the UMass system.

Only one other New England public university, the University of Maine, has won state and federal approval of this kind of comprehensive multi-hazard mitigation plan, officials say.

Development of UMass's Hazard Mitigation Plan began four years with three grants totaling $650,000 from MEMA and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which allowed the campuses to identify areas of critical importance, collect data, analyze risk and estimate the costs of lessening those risks, Hescock said.

“With the threat of climate change and some of the extreme weather we've experienced, these kinds of plans become increasingly important,” he added.           

In the event of a hurricane risk, campus emergency planners would assess the potential impact on facilities, project where rain or flooding might cause the most damage, and highlight the critical services needing to be protected, he said.

Having a FEMA-approved plan makes the University eligible for certain pre and post disaster funding for projects to reduce the risk to property, including generators, storm water management projects or structural improvements to vulnerable facilities. 

Whenever FEMA provides relief funds to a region after a natural disaster, it appropriates an additional 15 percent for mitigation efforts to avert damage from future disasters, Hescock said.  Having a FEMA-approved plan makes UMass eligible for grants from that specific mitigation appropriation.

Each campus mitigation plan has been approved by the campus chancellor, or in the case of the President's Office, by President Meehan.

 

Contact: Jan Brogan 617-287-4027