What is Pepperdine’s EOC?
An institution must successfully navigate four phases of emergency planning and response: mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery. To address these phases, Pepperdine University established an interdisciplinary Emergency Operations Committee, or EOC, to serve as the University’s centralized decision-making body during emergencies.
The EOC is designed to consolidate action into one group that enjoys a common full understanding of the facts and circumstances. Each area of the University is represented on the EOC so information and decisions are informed by and communicated to all parts of the institution. Specifically, during emergencies, the EOC manages issues including health and safety, emergency operations, government and agency coordination, operations, communications, institutional coordination, tracking and distilling crisis information, forecasting implications, and benchmarking. It is staffed by the senior leaders listed below.
- Senior Vice President for Administration and Chief Operating Officer – Chair
- Vice President and Chief Business Officer – Vice Chair
- Executive Vice President
- Vice President and Chief of Staff
- Senior Vice President for Strategic Implementation
- Vice President for Advancement and Chief Development Officer
- Vice President, Student Affairs
- General Counsel
- Vice Provost for Research and Strategic Initiatives
- Associate Vice President, Administration
- Associate Vice President and University Registrar
- Chief Financial Officer
- Director of Emergency Services
- Director of Public Safety
Disaster Management Team
EOC members are supported by several working groups, which as a whole comprise the Disaster Management Team. Each of these groups is supported by additional Critical Support Personnel. Groups include:
- Campus Operations
- Graduate Campuses
- Systems & Communication
- On-Campus Resident
- Student Affairs
- Athletics and Church Relations
- Infectious Disease Taskforce
Members are chosen both for their roles at Pepperdine and their individual character. Individuals are available 24/7 to assist and have backups for when they are out of town or otherwise unavailable.
What does the EOC do?
During emergencies, the EOC leads and protects the University. Its highest priority is placed on the safety of the Pepperdine University community including students, faculty, staff, visitors, alumni, etc. Once life safety issues are addressed, the EOC subsequently considers other issues such as property protection, limiting liability, and managing the University’s reputation.
Because of the broad perspectives of its members, the EOC is able to centralize critical decision making and allow the University to speak with one voice during emergencies as communications are disseminated.
How does the EOC do it?
When possible the EOC prefers to act proactively to minimize risks to the University in advance. Examples of these actions include:
- Annual Malibu campus fire drills
- Annual Malibu campus brush clearance
- Presentations on emergency response during NSO
The EOC follows more than 20 unique response plans entirely written by and customized to Pepperdine to respond to specific emergencies such as: wildfire, earthquake, tsunami, active shooter, terrorist attack, power outage, and pandemic. The plans are maintained, regularly reviewed, and updated as new best practices emerge by Pepperdine’s Office of Emergency Services.
Pepperdine’s emergency plans prioritize the safety of the community (students, faculty, and staff) above everything else. The plans are flexible and prompt the EOC to consider various issues given the specific circumstances of the event. Because of our location in Malibu, response plans call for the University to be its own first responder initially, before support from local first responders arrives.
The Office of Emergency Services actively learns from both our own experiences and those of others to improve our plans. For example we:
- Studied Hurricane Katrina and used it to inform our earthquake response plans.
- Studied the Fukushima, Japan earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear power plant disaster and contemplated how a similar incident could impact California.
- Followed H5N1 (avian flu), H1N1 (swine flu), Ebola, COVID-19, and other diseases to inform our infectious disease and pandemic plans.
University officials maintain and develop relationships with first responders, government officials, utility providers, and others who could assist the University during emergencies. These relationships both familiarize others with Pepperdine and our operations, offer opportunities for these outside individuals to visit campus, and provide the University with allies during emergencies.
EOC decisions are made by following the response plan for the incident and building consensus within the EOC, while utilizing the latest information available – albeit sometimes incomplete.
The EOC gathers information from a wide variety of sources including:
- Incident Command Posts
- Established professional contacts/relationships
- Feedback from the University community
- Information can be shared with HRL, DPS, members of the Disaster Management Team or with EOC members directly.
- The University community can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the University’s emergency hotline number 310.506.8111.
- News media
- Social Media
- Scientific research
- Centrally decides how to respond
Maintaining open lines of communication with the University community is one of the top priorities for the EOC as it allows information to flow to the EOC and be disseminated to the University community so individuals can respond to the situation appropriately.
The EOC publishes regular updates during emergencies through a variety of methods including:
- Posting updates on the University’s Emergency Information Page (emergency.pepperdine.edu) which functions like a blog for the EOC.
- Sending messages through Everbridge, the University’s mass notification system, which allows messages to be sent to cell, office, and home phones, SMS/text devices, emails, and emergency contacts.
- The system relies on contact information provided by each member in WaveNet.
- When appropriate EOC messages are shared via University social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook most commonly)
Videos on the Emergency Information Page (emergency.pepperdine.edu) provide further insights into the EOC’s approach and role through the lens of the Woolsey fire.