Creating a Disaster Resistant University

In the past decade, disasters have affected universities and college campuses more frequently and with sometimes devastating results. (Recall the massive floods of 2008 that particularly impacted the Bloomington and Northwest campuses.) Damage to university buildings can result in significant monetary losses, not just in terms of infrastructure, but also in disruption of the institution’s teaching, research, and public service. But through comprehensive planning and mitigation efforts, universities can reduce or eliminate these impacts.

Indiana University is doing just that. Through a federal grant from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the IU Emergency Management and Continuity (IUEMC) group has partnered with The Polis Center to develop a campus-wide hazard mitigation plan for FEMA’s Disaster-Resistant University (DRU) initiative. Polis has extensive experience in developing hazard mitigation plans and has produced over 100 throughout the Midwest, as well as in Texas, Georgia, and Puerto Rico.

To develop the IU DRU, Polis will use GIS modeling tools including FEMA’s Hazus-MH, a powerful GIS-based disaster mitigation tool, to predict and analyze the estimated losses each campus may face in the event of a disaster. These risk assessments will guide the team in compiling specific mitigation strategies for each of IU’s eight campuses to inform IUEMC’s decision making in project planning and to help reduce the impacts of natural and man-made disasters.

The project is scheduled to complete by early 2014. Subscribe to our blog for more news about the IU DRU and for details about the public meeting, which will be held in Fall 2013.

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