A subject with a gun fled toward campus Aug. 19, tornado warnings flashed on phones and buses Aug. 24, and a student was robbed near Dunn’s Woods on Sept. 27. Meanwhile, IU-Bloomington Emergency Management and Continuity was a one-man show.
“That got old real quick,” EMC director Ken Long said.
Long has been with the department since its formation and has served as assistant director, but the director position and being alone were new to him.
He needed a team.
Steve Balko, who worked as an emergency management coordinator during the beginning of the semester at IU-Purdue University Indianapolis, came down to help plan residence hall evacuation drills. He would soon be Long’s assistant director.
Alison Sinadinos, who worked as an IU assistant residence manager, learned about security planning and worked with IU Police Department and crisis management in her time at Forest Quad. She would soon be one of Long’s emergency management coordinators.
Jim Garlits, who had recently retired after 20 years with the National Guard, understood the mechanics of emergency management. He would soon be the other coordinator.
The new team officially assembled Oct. 17. Now, several weeks into working together, they’ve settled into a collaborative dynamic.
“I’ve had a steep learning curve in the emergency management aspect, because I’ve worked emergencies through residence life for years, but learning the lingo here is a lot,” Sinadinos said. “The team has been providing me grace on time and figuring that out and me whispering questions when we’re in meetings or exercises.”
Balko’s familiarity with emergency management and the Bloomington campus made his transition as smooth as it could have been, he said.
“It made it easier, but it was still hectic because, getting all those drills accomplished in a timely fashion, we were way behind the power curve,” Long said. “If he hadn’t have been coming down prior to being hired in this position, we would have even been in worse shape.”
Within a few weeks, they had caught up almost entirely.
Right now the team is working on building-specific emergency action plans, Sinadinos said.
“If things were in an ideal year — so next year, when we start in August, as opposed to us starting in October this year — we’ll be getting them done earlier in the academic year,” she said.
Coordinating involves the standard networking with people in charge of buildings around campus as well as the atypical.
“It’s those random things that pop up, and that’s kind of the fun about emergency management,” Sinadinos said. “There’s no typical day-to-day kind of thing.”
According to Long, maintaining situational awareness to keep campus safe relies both on scouring daily security reports and springing into action when an emergency occurs.
When an attacker struck at Ohio State University and as fires raged in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the team came together and monitored those situations. They focused on supporting and learning from the emergency management teams in those crises.
Today, IU EMC continues to review the procedures employed by those teams and compare them with its own.
“We try not to make snap judgements, and whatever we do affects a lot of people,” Long said. “It’s not easy getting an entire university on one page, so all of us are putting our heads together along with public safety, police.”
Within the new team, putting heads together means combining four distinct but complementary perspectives.
For Sinadinos, her and Garlits’ differing backgrounds have been invaluable.
“I think about the people we’re talking to, and he thinks about the processes we’re using,” she said. “We’re able to collaborate on that, so I don’t think it’s necessarily opposing views, but it’s different views that are able to create a better message.”
According to Long, the team has helped him realize his dreams for the department.
“I purposely went looking for someone that would probably challenge me because sometimes when you’re older, you get set in your ways and a new perspective can be very valuable,” said Long, looking to the young Balko and Sinadinos. “I feel youth can bring that.”
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