Disaster Resistant University Project

Project Background

In 2002, the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) initiated the Disaster Resistant University Program. Administered by Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the DRU Program assists universities and colleges to implement a sustained pre-disaster hazard mitigation program to reduce risk to students, faculty, staff, facilities and research assets. On March 27, 2008, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, Office of Risk Management, entered into a contract with MEMA to produce hazard mitigation plans on all campuses, with the exception of the University of Mississippi, who already has one. MUW was notified of the DRU award in a letter dated April 4, 2008 from Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning’s Office of Insurance and Risk Management; however the grant, in the amount of $84,600 (95%/5%) was not signed by IHL until October 20, 2008.  The contract requires the plan to be completed and approved by MEMA and FEMA no later than March 20, 2010.

Project Summary

On April 4, 2008, Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning notified MUW that the University had been approved for a multi-jurisdiction Disaster Resistant University (DRU) grant as announced by FEMA in the amount of $80,370 (95%/5%). The funding from this grant will finance 95% of the cost of assembling the hazard mitigation project. MUW will provide a matching commitment of $4,230 for a total of $84,600. The goal of the project is to produce and implement a sustained pre-disaster natural hazard mitigation plan for MUW to reduce the overall risk to students, faculty, staff, surrounding community, facilities and research assets. The ultimate goal is simply a safer university. Upon a positive review by the MEMA and FEMA, MUW will qualify for pre-disaster financial assistance to help initiate the mitigation actions outlined in the plan.

DRU Planning Team

The DRU planning team is composed of a cross-section of University staff, representatives from city government, community organizations, Columbus Air Force Base (CAFB), IHL, MEMA and Affiliated FM, the University’s property insurance carrier. The DRU planning team provides guidance and advice in order to complete the plan and will continue to provide communication to ensure continuing mitigation work into the future. The team serves as the overall guiding organization for the development of the mitigation plan. All members are allowed direct input into the process of the plan. As each phase of the plan is completed, each member is given a chance to review the plan and offer feedback. The team also provides overall guidance and assistance in the locating data specific to the University. Individual members of the team are involved throughout the planning process.

The mission of the DRU planning team is to identify potential hazards (natural and man-made), critical assets and resources that will minimize vulnerabilities to the University while estimating monetary losses that could incur due to these hazards.


Table 1 - MUW’s DRU Planning Team

Community Members


Cindy Lawrence

Lowndes County Emergency Management

Kenneth Moore

Columbus Fire Department

Pauline Redmond

American Red Cross

Bill Patrick

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA)

Tracy Pharr


Cynthia McKinney


Dr. Bob Neal

Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning

Paul White

Salvation Army

Travis Johnson


Rodney Roberts


Joe Higgins

Columbus LINK

Mark Hagan

Affiliated FM, Commercial Property Insurance Specialists

Roger Bell

Columbus and Greenville Railway

MUW Members:


Nora Miller

Finance and Administration

Sherry Honsinger

Police Department

Perry Sansing

Assistant to the President

Mary Slater

Police Department

Dewey Blansett

Facilities Management

Larry Jones

Information Technology Services

Melanie Freeman

Human Resources

Anika Perkins

Public Affairs

Cathy Young

Faculty Senate

Menuka Ban

Student Government Association

Sirena Parker

Community Living

Deborah Miranda

College of Nursing/Speech-Language Pathology

Eva Black

Campus Health Center

Bill Winters

Mississippi School for Mathematics & Science

Angela Jones

Project Coordinator


DRU Phases & Progress

The DRU plan is divided into four phases:

Phase 1 – Organize Resources
Phase 2 – Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment
Phase 3 – Developing the Mitigation Plan
Phase 4 – Adoption and Implementation

MUW has completed phases 1 and 2 of the plan as the DRU planning team has identified and ranked hazards that could affect the university. The team has also assessed the vulnerability of each hazard and identified critical structures and buildings on campus. Loss estimations are complete as well. We are currently in phase 3 which is developing the mitigation plan. The planning team has ranked mitigation actions to come up with a list of actions to implement. In order to ensure this plan is comprehensive, we are asking the university community and public for their input as well. After reviewing the draft, please submit any suggestions to Angela Jones at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Mayor’s office and the Board of Supervisors have been mailed a draft of the plan in order to stay abreast of this project. Upon completion of phase 3, the plan will have to be adopted, implemented, monitored and evaluated.

Hazards Profiled

Table 3 lists all hazards profiled in MUW’s DRU plan.

Table 3 - Hazards Profiled

Natural Hazards

Risk Rank

Dam Failure


Drought/Extreme Heat








Hurricanes and Tropical Storms




Tornado/Straight-line winds/Windstorm




Winter Storm



Man-Made Hazards/Accidental/Medical


Civil Disturbance


Computer Crime or Attack


Disease (Epidemic or otherwise)




Loss of Lifelines (Utilities)


Terrorist Acts/Explosive Devices


Transportation Accidents/ Explosions/HazMat/ Chemical Spills


Water/Food Contamination



Prioritizing Mitigation Actions

Hazard Mitigation Plan

Review the MUW Hazard Mitigation Plan (.pdf)

Below are the goals, objectives and mitigation actions the DRU planning committee ranked as high priority. These actions will be implemented into the DRU plan.


Introduce, enhance and maintain hazard mitigation as a part of the University’s standard operating procedure in order to reduce/ eliminate future vulnerabilities for campus and community


  1. More involvement with local emergency officials and government


  1. Work closely with emergency management personnel and keep city officials abreast of changes and updates as well as seek their input



Eliminate/reduce vulnerabilities to existing university property and critical resources from natural and man-made hazards


  1. Look for ways to fund more generators
  2. Enhance current campus warning/siren system
  3. Enhance communications between Police Department, Facilities and other personnel
  4. Reduce wind vulnerabilities from the tornado/straight-line wind and windstorm & hurricane tropical storm hazard
  5. Reduce winter storm vulnerabilities
  6. Reduce fire vulnerabilities (fire/arson, lightning, wildfire, explosion)
  7. Reduce flood and dam failure vulnerabilities
  8. Reduce vulnerabilities from man-made hazards


  1. Seek funding methods for more generators on campus as the university currently has eight.
  2. Seek funding to add on to current warning/siren system (voice-overs)
  3. Ensure communications/channels/towers are working properly
  4. Wind:
    1. Ensure communications/channels are working properly between Police Department and Facilities. This includes all hazards.
    2. Inspect, repair roof flashing, roof covering, roof drains and gutters
  5. Winter Storm:
    1. Inspect all boilers and other heating equipment
    2. Check all steam traps for proper operation
    3. Verify adequate heat
  6. Fire (fire/arson, lightning, wildfire, explosion)
    1. Improve sprinkler systems
    2. Require the use of fire-retardant materials in new constructions
    3. Determine each building’s fire code requirements
    4. Review the configuration of offices
    5. Review campus fire safety particularly in residence halls
    6. Increase use of fireproofing and/or fire-resistant building materials
    7. Ensure adequate water supplies for fire protection
    8. Control ignition sources
  7. Flood & Dam Failure
    1. Improve drainage system
    2. Prevent water from entering key areas by using flood gates, stop logs, water barriers
    3. Install and/or improve back-up systems
  8. Man-made (computer crime/attack (cca), terrorists acts/explosive devices (taed), hazardous  materials/chemical spills (hazmat/chemspill)
    1. Maintain and update university’s disaster and contingency planning document (cca)
    2. Minimize the time required to respond effectively to an emergency or disaster (cca)
    3. Facilitate effective coordination of recovery tasks (cca)
    4. Reduce the complexity of the recovery effort (cca)
    5. Report unusual, peculiar packages, mail, devices immediately (tead)
    6. Strengthen security controls at front gate (tead)
    7. Ensure all chemistry labs have spill kits and fire blankets (hazmat/chemspill)
    8. Enforce all safety rules


Protect the health, safety and welfare of students, faculty, staff and visitors at MUW


  1. Enhance the communication and warning capabilities needed before and during a natural hazard
  2. Identify “safest place” in each building
  3. Determine building code compliance
  4. Properly train employees


  1. Build upon siren system by looking for ways to fund voice activated sirens which will allow  a pre-recorded message for emergencies as they have greater penetration on campus and can be heard in the surrounding community. Also look at emergency notification system enhancement such as installing emergency alert monitors in all campus buildings.
  2. Build upon the “safest place” program already in progress--add this information to the university emergency plan and post these areas in highly visible places in each office.
  3. Survey campus buildings to determine their compliance with ADA, fire and other codes and specific requirements.
  4. Be sure all employees, particularly those in Police Department and Facilities Management, are properly trained in the procedures, operation, maintenance, or emergency response of equipment, processes, or physical hazards in a facility. Administration will need to be abreast of policies and procedures in times of an emergency event and/or disaster.



Reduce vulnerabilities to campus lifelines from hazards and minimize interruption of mission performance


  1. Stay abreast of utilities updates
  2. Establish back up system


  1. Maintain healthy professional relationships with Columbus Light & Water and Atmos Energy and Cable One.
  2. Ensure generators are working properly and enough fuel is on hand and seek funding for more generators on campus



Reduce / eliminate vulnerabilities to equipment, investments, unique research data and administrative records.


  1. Establish guidance on means of archiving data
  2. Analysis of equipment location in each office


  1. Establish policy for university departments to ensure data is properly archived and stored
  2. Ensure equipment in offices is not placed in hazard zones (i.e. office equipment is not placed directly underneath sprinklers or near objects that could cause fire).

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