A Message from President Gash: Pepperdine’s Emergency Preparedness 

Posted on Updated on

Each year, Pepperdine prepares a message like this one to better inform our parents and students of the University’s emergency response plans. Most years, this message shares what Pepperdine does to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe. In other years, and especially these last two and a half years during which we have collectively had to address a global pandemic and the challenges it poses for our society, it also serves as a reminder of how important awareness, emergency preparedness, and resilience are for the entire University—and the role each member of our community has in managing our collective response. 

As we bring our community together again this school year, you can take comfort in knowing that health and safety are our top priority, and we will continue to have COVID-19 infection control measures to minimize the pandemic’s impact within our campus community, including optional free testing and contact tracing to reduce transmission when cases are identified. Additionally, we remain poised to address other natural and man-made disasters. Pepperdine University is like a small well-equipped city. We have fire trucks and emergency response personnel; capable facilities employees able to respond 24/7; medical supplies, food, and water; health and counseling centers; and numerous other resources available to us in an emergency. Additionally, faculty and staff who live on campus are present and active in assisting the University.

Through diligent training, equipping, studying, staffing, and commitment, we are prepared to be our own first responders until local and state agencies reach campus. We are prepared to be self-reliant in the event utilities and other infrastructure services are disrupted. When the University activates an emergency response plan, our expertly trained staff gather support personnel, disseminate information, and, if necessary, open pre-planned relocation centers. The University has an exhaustive and well-rehearsed protocol to evaluate risks and make decisions in the best interests of both our community and our campuses. In fact, we have used this protocol throughout the pandemic to guide our response.

I can attest, from personal experience, that in the middle of an emergency at Pepperdine, a sense of calm permeates our community. Though it may not be known by the public or reported on the news, we know it is because we have done our due diligence to prepare accordingly. One of our greatest tasks is to transmit accurate information from, to, and within the campus community. Our emergency notification system, Everbridge, allows the University to send voice messages to the cell, office, and home phones of every faculty, staff, and student, as well as deliver text messages and emails. The system is dependent upon each of our community members entering his or her contact information into the University web portal that feeds into Everbridge, and students receive instruction on how to do so. 

In addition, the latest updates and decisions of the University’s Emergency Operations Committee are posted on Pepperdine’s Emergency Information Page. You may also call our Department of Public Safety at 310.506.4442 (non-emergency line) or 310.506.4441 (emergency line) at any time during the day or night. During the pandemic we have also opened a COVID-19 Information Line, covid19info@pepperdine.edu or 310.506.8111, which is staffed Monday through Friday during normal business hours. The only things that may impair our communications are things we simply cannot plan for or control. Throughout all of this, our every effort is directed toward protecting our community and returning to safe and normal operations, including classes, as soon as possible.

Furthermore, we use the StepUp campaign to emphasize the importance of looking out for one another, both in emergency situations and in daily life. Through the StepUp campaign, our students, faculty, and staff have received valuable bystander intervention and Title IX training that encourages participants to step up and speak up for themselves and others who may be in distress. 

Another instrumental tool in this effort is the LiveSafe campus safety app, which allows users to submit emergency and non-emergency messages to Public Safety; utilize SafeWalk, a person-to-person virtual security escort allowing users to ensure their loved ones reach their destinations safely; and see a full list of the University’s emergency procedures. Importantly, the app also works for users who are traveling or participating in one of our international programs. Further, we partner with International SOS, a global emergency medical and security services firm that provides assistance to our students, faculty, and staff abroad. 

Pepperdine maintains a multi-disciplinary threat assessment team that meets whenever necessary to immediately address potential threats to our community. The team includes University leaders, members of our Counseling Center, and outside experts and law enforcement when applicable. The group is experienced and well-trained, and it always works to serve the best interests of the University community and the individual for whom the concern was raised. 

Our emergency plans are living documents, regularly updated to include the latest best practices adapted to best serve our community. In addition to learning from our own experiences, we also study disasters around the world to glean lessons learned and adapt them to our circumstances. These planning revisions and careful preparation place us in a state of readiness as we move into this new school year. While we hope each year our emergency response plans remain unused, they stand ready to be used as they have been during this pandemic. 

All of us at Pepperdine are excited for the school year ahead, and we look forward to completing it successfully—and safely—with each student who has been entrusted to us.