08:15 AM

EOC Team Supports Campus During Emergencies

By Eric Breier

Dr. James Chun had only been in his role as Cal State San Marcos’ interim medical director for Student Health and Counseling Services for a short time when he was asked in February to assist in the university’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC).

Chun was brought into the fold as coronavirus activity globally was increasing and it was apparent that it was only a matter of time before the U.S. was affected.

“I was very impressed as to how members of the CSUSM EOC team, along with key leaders in the campus community, worked so well collaboratively to create processes where the university could make the transition from in-class to virtual instruction run as smoothly as possible, while ensuring the health and safety of the students, faculty and staff,” said Chun, who was part of operations similar to CSUSM’s EOC during his career in Navy Medicine.

Modeled to be compliant with the Standardized Emergency Management System (state) and National Incident Management System (federal), the focus of the EOC team is to support faculty, staff and students to ensure that they are safe in the event of a wide range of emergencies, ranging from earthquakes to structure or wildfires to severe weather and even pandemics.

The EOC has a space designated in the University Police Department building where assigned emergency management personnel can report during an incident. Since mid-March, the EOC team has held virtual meetings to comply with social distancing and stay-at-home measures.

Chief of Police Lamine Secka serves as director of the EOC and is responsible for overall management of disaster response, while Robert Williams is CSUSM’s emergency manager and oversees university-wide emergency preparedness programs and initiatives.

The EOC can be activated for numerous reasons and has three levels of activation:

  1. Monitoring, which covers a minor to moderate incident in which local resources are adequate and available.
  2. Partial Activation, which covers a moderate to severe emergency/disaster where local resources are not adequate and mutual aid may be required on a regional or statewide basis.
  3. Full Activation, which is a major local or regional disaster wherein resources in or near the impacted area are overwhelmed and extensive state and/or federal resources are required.

The EOC is currently activated at level 3.

For most emergencies, the EOC is structured in teams that oversee logistics, operations, planning and intelligence, and finance and administration (an EOC organizational chart is available at this link). Each team is charged with gathering information and recommending a plan of action.

The nature of the emergency determines which team in the EOC takes the lead. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, Integrated Risk Management and Safety, Health and Sustainability have been at the forefront of efforts along with Chun.

“The whole idea behind the EOC structure is that it is flexible,” Secka said. “We can activate the entire EOC if needed, or just smaller portions of it, depending on the nature of emergency.”

However, unlike most emergencies in the past, COVID-19 has presented a unique challenge given the global impact and extended timeline. This has meant that the EOC team has needed to be agile in dealing with long-term implications and ever-evolving information. For example, new team members with specific expertise from Academic Affairs and Student Affairs were added to help develop classroom and laboratory safety protocols, plans for providing limited in-person instruction this fall, plans for housing that included reduced resident density, and much more.

This work requires ongoing coordination with the county and the CSU Office of the Chancellor to support faculty, staff and student needs. Thanks to their hard work and efforts, CSUSM was one of the first campuses in the system to have its fall plan approved by the CSU.

This summer, their work will continue as they monitor available COVID-19 data, implement health and safety protocols and ensure that the campus is ready to welcome back a limited number of students, faculty and staff to support select in-person learning and research opportunities.

"The EOC team is comprised of talented professionals who strive to ensure concerns of the university are addressed as a whole, while also paying attention to emerging issues and creating plans to address those as well,” said Katy Rees, associate vice president of administration for Finance & Administrative Services who is in charge of the EOC planning group. “Ensuring safety, business continuity and providing an important support structure with care is paramount in everything we do.”

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist

ebreier@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7314