FEMA funds a disaster-resistant Tulane

October 27, 2000

Nick Marinello

Tulane has been chosen as one of five U.S. universities to participate in the pilot phase of a disaster-prevention program initiated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Inclusion in the program will assist Tulane in completing its own strategic-loss study and allow the university to serve as a model for other institutions, said Andy Schroeder, director of risk management.

"We've been chosen to help FEMA develop a program for universities that parallels its Project Impact program, which is designed to make communities more disaster resistant," says Schroeder. "Our goal is to create a strategic-loss reduction and recovery plan that ties into and enhances the goals of the Tulane University strategic plan."

Beyond that, says Schroeder, "Tulane's plan will be incorporated by FEMA into a disaster-resistance plan that could be shared by universities throughout the country. The program is based on a FEMA-sponsored study indicating that a natural disaster affecting a community's university would have severe economic consequences locally and even statewide."

For its participation in the program, Tulane will receive $134,000 from FEMA, a sum that will allow the university to complete a plan already under way to ensure Tulane's continued viability in the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, says Schroeder. "Tulane was chosen because of demonstrated leadership commitment at the highest levels and the unique challenges it faces due to its geography," he says.

Tony Lorino, senior vice president of operations and chief financial officer, says that for the last 18 months, he has been attending quarterly meetings with representatives from FEMA and nine other universities. The five chosen universities--including University of Alaska-Fairbanks, University of Miami, Universityof North Carolina-Wilmington and the University of Washington Seattle--were all participants in these meetings.

All exist in areas prone to significant damage from earthquakes, fires or storms. "The group has had an ongoing discussion about what we have done and could do to mitigate the damage due to natural disasters," says Lorino. "FEMA wants to allocate money on the front-end to assist universities in developing disaster-resistance plans rather than having to spend a lot more money to clean up after the fact."

Lorino said that the FEMA money would be used to hire a coordinator for disaster-resistance planning and to study the viability of some of Tulane's facilities as hurricane shelters. "We'd like to know what it would it take to make the four residence halls that are now designated as shelters to be able to withstand a category 4 storm," says Lorino. "We will use these funds to hire an engineering firm to do that study."
Lorino is hopeful that participation in the program could lead to future grants from FEMA. Tulane has a year to complete its study, says Schroeder.

In the meantime, he will have the opportunity to network at a high level with university and government officials. Schroeder and Rick Jones, senior associate vice president for facility services, will travel to Washington, D.C., in the middle of the month to attend the Project Impact Summit.

"We hope to participate in briefings and presentations that will inform and educate various D.C. audiences on the Disaster Resistant University initiative, helping FEMA make the pitch that DRU and Tulane are worthy of federal and appropriate private-sector support," he says.

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