Emergency Management Higher Education

Transcript: Systemwide Emergency Exercise: How CSU Connected its 23 Campuses

An aerial view of the CSU campus.

This webinar was originally recorded on Ocotber 6th, 2023, you can watch the recording here.

First, Some Background on Jenny and Stephanie

Jenny Novak  00:00

Well thank you everyone for joining us today. I’m Jenny Novak and I’m the Director of Emergency Management and Continuity for the California State University System. And I’m joined by Stephanie Kim, the Emergency Management and Continuity Analyst for our System. And I think that Stephanie just got on, there she is, okay. I think she was on the attendee list at first. So welcome, Stephanie. And we’re going to be speaking today about an emergency exercise that we conducted in June. Stephanie actually played in the exercise. So her perspective is a little bit different. But she’s going to be speaking about, you know, some of the tools that we used during that exercise, and I was more on the exercise design team for that. So we’re going to share with you guys a little bit of background of what that planning process looked like, and how this exercise was unique. Because you know, we are a big System, we are not just, you know, one entity and how we have tried to kind of connect the different campuses during emergencies. So we’ll be speaking a little bit about that.

But first, I want to tell you just a little bit about us and our background. So you can understand kind of how we approach this and where we’re coming from. I was appointed to this position in June of 2020 and I’m the first ever Director of System wide Emergency Management and Continuity for the Cal States. Prior to that we mostly did outside consulting for Emergency Management services, and didn’t have anybody filling this role full time. But they had decided to fill that position and I was lucky when I got selected for that. And so it’s been really fun these past two years, being able to build the program kind of from the ground up and, you know, take it in the direction that we think is going to best support the campuses. And that’s really what our role is, to help the campuses to succeed in their emergency management program. So prior to this, I’ve had about 15 years of experience in emergency management. And right before this, I was with Cal OES doing disaster response and recovery. And right before that, I was at Cal State Northridge as the campus Emergency Manager. So I like to say that this position is a combination of my last two jobs, which is why it was so perfect because I have the campus background, but then also the statewide perspective, which is really, you know what this position marries and I really enjoy it. Prior to that I worked at the local level in government. My academic background is hazards geography. I went to Humboldt State now Cal Poly Humboldt and USC for graduate school, in geography. And then I recently graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security Executive Leaders Program, which is amazing, and if anyone’s considering that I highly recommend that program. So I’ll let Stephanie introduce yourself to the group.

Stephanie Kim  02:49

Hello, can you hear me okay? Okay, great. So, hi, my name is Stephanie Kim. I am the Emergency Management and Continuity Analyst at the CSU Chancellor’s Office and I obviously work with Jenny. I’m pretty relatively new to the field of emergency management, I first discovered the field when I was completing my Master’s in Public Health at the University of Southern California. And then, actually, at the end of my program, I completed my capstone with the County of Los Angeles Office of Emergency Management, and really got to stay with them through a couple activations, and see a little bit more of how they run at a county level. And then eventually, after that, I had the opportunity to work with the City of Los Angeles in the Emergency Management Department as one of their Emergency Management interns, and then actually got on right as COVID began. And so I stayed with them throughout most of that activation. And then I found my way into higher education emergency management here at the CSU.

Jenny Novak  03:54

Yeah, and I should mention that some of my local experience includes that city of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department internship as well. So Stephanie and I are both alumna of that program and we recommend that to people that are maybe trying to get a foot in the door and understand emergency management.

CSU: Working From a 30,000 ft Perspective

Jenny Novak  04:10

So let’s tell you guys a little bit about the CSU. I know that there’s probably people from different parts of the country that may or may not be familiar with the CSU. So the California State University, our mission is to provide inclusive and affordable education for workforce development in California. So we really have a focus on undergraduate education, and teaching undergraduate students. We are not as focused on research as our sister system in the University of California. And we really look to, you know, provide that educational background to maybe some people that couldn’t have you know, gotten into a UC or one of the other institutes and just trying to get into the workforce and provide the skills to get a job after they graduate. So that’s really what we focus on. We are the largest public university system in the nation. We have 23 campuses, so you can see that on the map, we really stretch 800 miles, which is a lot. From Humble way up in the top to San Diego down near the border. We are in 16 counties in California, 500,000 students, about 56,000 staff and faculty. And fun fact that about one in 10 employees in California are alumni of the CSU. So when it comes to emergency management, our staff and the Chancellor’s Office really kind of sets the policy. And we are, you know more of a sounding board and provide advice and guidance for campuses. But the campuses have the authority the President’s or delegated the authority from the Chancellor to implement those emergency management programs on their campuses. So we don’t, you know, manage emergency management at all these campuses, we support and assist the campus Emergency Managers that exist on all 23 of these campuses. And we tried to provide resources for them during, you know, times of non activations, during blue skies, to help them prepare for response, to prepare for recovery, and to just kind of enhance resilience for students, staff and faculty.

So one of the things that we decided to do, though, at the System wide level, is what we call the System Wide Emergency Support Team. And I don’t call this an EOC because I feel like we are kind of so far removed from the ground when it comes to actual operations that are going on, we’re kind of an EOC of EOCs if that makes sense. Because at the campus level, they really well, you know, you have the incident command post and then the EOC already, you know, you’re a little bit removed from the ground level. But the campus’ all have their own EOCs. So at the Chancellor’s Office, we want to support them, you know, we are not controlling or managing, you know, any of these emergencies. We are really standing by to collect situational awareness information, and to provide resources where needed. For us, we really want to get kind of that 30,000 foot view. We don’t get involved in, you know, the tactics or the strategies at the campus level. What we do is collect information about what that statewide perspective looks like.

So we started doing this, in 2020, there were statewide wildfires that impacted seven of our campuses by either smoke or the fire itself. Lots of our students, staff and faculty were evacuated, some did lose their homes in that incident. So during that time, we started to get this group together and operate in a way where we would have regular conference calls with our internal team at the System wide level because we have partners, you know, in Finance, Logistics, Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, IT, I’ll show you the org chart in a minute. So our idea is to circle all those folks around and make sure that we’re talking to each other, because people do tend to have communications with someone they know at the Chancellor’s Office during an emergency just the way they would on a normal day, not necessarily thinking that, you know, maybe it should go through the EOC. So we want to make sure that we’re gathering all that information at a System wide level for situational awareness products, such as an example of this, this report here that we would share on a daily basis. And these reports would be shared with our executives at the Chancellor’s Council. And then also they were shared with our Board of Trustees, and they even made their way to the state legislature during this incident. So when campuses need support, because we do provide some resources System wide, we can then step in and do that.

One of the things we do System wide, for example, is HR, we also are one legal entity. So we provide legal counsel at a System wide level. IT is a little bit, some campuses can make their own choices, and so some campuses like Google and others use Outlook. So it’s not all, you know, on the same page in that way, but we do manage some things in some programs centrally. So when campuses have issues that we can step in and support, and the other good example is Building Officials, you know, we have trained Building Officials at the Chancellor’s Office level that can go to any of the campuses to inspect following a damaging disaster. So we tried to get all these folks together and make sure everybody knows what’s going on. And we want to hear from them if any of their campus counterparts are giving information to them that we’re not hearing through our official sources in the EOC. So we kind of take an approach where we have situational awareness calls with the campus EOCs and then we also have calls with our Chancellor’s oOffice level group and between those two, were able to piece together a pretty good information and a pretty good perspective of what’s going on and then produce those reports so that we can tell people you know, from a System wide level, this is what’s happening. So really, we are looking at it from that 30,000 foot perspective. So it’s quite different than what a local level EOC would look like.

The Exercise

Jenny Novak  09:59

So when we wanted to put together this exercise, we were thinking an earthquake scenario. We wanted to focus on damage assessment, because so many of our recent disasters have been smoke and fire. And they haven’t resulted in a lot of direct property damage, because it’s mainly the smoke that causes us to have to shift our operations and, you know, cancel classes or support people because of smoke and other health hazards that have to do with the fires rather than damage. So in an earthquake scenario, though, we would have to do a lot of damage assessment. So that was a focus of this exercise. And so when we decided to design this exercise, I kind of mentioned that previously, the System used to go out to a consultant for all emergency management. And that’s still you know, a practice and a lot of agencies to bring in a consultant for an exercise. But because we are a System with 23, or more than 23 Emergency Managers, because some of our campuses have multiple Emergency Managers on staff, we decided to look at our own internal resources for a couple of reasons. One, they know best, you know, what those impacts are going to look like on the campus and what kind of support they might anticipate. And two it helps them build their skills and develop, you know, exercise design, exercise facilitation skills. So we saw it as a win-win opportunity to engage our campuses as the exercise planning team for this.

So I acted as the Exercise Director and we had a couple of folks that couldn’t be a part of the facilitation on the day of the exercise, but they participated in planning meetings. We use the HC model really to plan this and we started planning in January and the exercise took place in June. And then on the day of the exercise, we were kind of divided into these three sections. One one of our campuses played with us on the exercise, our Pomona campus. So we had an Exercise Director for that campus, their Emergency Management Director and an evaluator assigned to that site. And then we had one simulation cell that was serving both our System Wide Emergency Support Team and the exercise at Pomona, the EOC exercise there. So that simulation cell had one lead Greg Porter from CSU Los Angeles, and then several other folks that were inputting phone calls or text messages into both Pomona and our System Wide Support Team with different injects for the exercise. Um, and I do also want to highlight the role here of Michael Edwards at San Jose State University because he was the one that was primarily responsible for inputting the Veoci information because we did use Veoci as a tool in this exercise. And so there was a lot of simulated information that we needed to be coming into the system that way so that our players could look at that and, you know, have that experience of determining what to do with that information, how to organize it, what’s actionable from the Veoci system.

Jenny Novak  12:56

So we also had an evaluation section. And so we had a Lead Evaluator Ken Olson from Monterey Bay. And then we divided the evaluators kind of by objectives. For the more emergency management related ones, we ended up bringing in some of our partners from the UC system, Amina Assefa and Randy Steiner helped us out with that. And then for the more kind of functional objectives, which I’ll show the objectives here on the next slide, we had Ebi Saberi from our Seismic Review Board. So those are the architects that are able to do the actual damage assessment and you know, officially red tag buildings and such because they are safety inspectors. And then we had a public information one, and that was also our CSU Chancellor’s Office staff. And then we had somebody that was specifically evaluating our Veoci objective and that was Rachel Henry, and she was actually engaged with us through the entire exercise planning process. She would come on to the calls, and she would give her input about, you know, the Veoci related objectives and helped us to kind of design a successful environment for how we might test some of our processes for the System during the exercise. And I know Rachel is with us today. So Rachel, if you want to say, a couple of, you know, comments, from your perspective, because you did fly out and help us on the day of the exercise, too. I think that that would be great if you have anything to add.

Rachel Henry  14:20

Yeah, I’d love to. So this I mean, this was a really cool just experience for me and my perspective, because like Jenny said, I was able to participate in the planning and participation meetings. I kind of heard about the scenario and listened to how they were thinking about things and how they were going to process things. And that helped me consider their solution and then suggest any tweaks and best practices or new ideas. Stephanie and I got really close during that process working together.

But then during the exercise, my main goal as listed there was to evaluate how Veoci was used. But I was also able to see how some of those non frequent users would come in, the players of the exercise, how they came in and interpreted the system. So then I can take notes on, maybe there were ways we could simplify, or maybe there were some non Veoci operations, we could move over into the system later. So I was really able to take, I think I took like five pages back in front of notes, on ways that we could better utilize the system, which was really exciting.

But then I got to work kind of closely with Michael Edwards too on helping with some of those injects and then working on any kind of technical questions or hiccups that came up. So it was really interesting to be there to see how users are kind of utilizing the system. Because as a Solutions Engineer, I’m kind of in the system thinking kind of broadly, but getting there and seeing the specifics of how it was used was really interesting. So yeah, I would highly encourage getting as involved in the future.

CSU’s Objectives

Jenny Novak  15:54

Yeah, it was really, really helpful. I think so thank you, Rachel, because you definitely traveled the farthest for the exercise. Well, we’re, yeah, um, so here were our objectives, we had five objectives.

The first was really just about our processes and procedures, in terms of activating the team and establishing that operation schedule, and assessing what was needed.

Then we wanted to look at getting that initial perspective of what the campuses needed, and to make a connection with the State Operation Center. Because the CSU is a state agency as a public institution, we are considered a state agency of the state of California. So we need to connect with the State Operation Center, you know, during a disaster at the state level, and make sure that there is communication happening there.

And then we also have the seismic response protocol. So that’s how the engineers will, and the architects will start to mobilize so that they can get out and get boots on the ground, the impacted campuses. So that’s the really important role that Ebi was playing and helping us understand that process.

And then we have public information, and then establishing Veoci as our primary tool for situational awareness for both our support team and the impacted campuses. And some of the things that went into the design here is that we decided to make this an in person exercise, which was, you know, really our first time doing anything this big in person in you know, since we started because we started during the pandemic. We did have two people remote, but it was primarily in person with sort of a secondary objective of wanting to build that camaraderie and team that can sometimes be more challenging to build over a virtual solution. So we wanted to get people together, we wanted to feed them and to have a little bit of fun, it was a functional exercise and we did have a simulation cell on site so it was very close, kind of just across this big cubicle room. There was a small room for the simulation cell and then we had a big room for the exercise. And then we have one campus playing simultaneously. So the sim cell was feeding both of us but the two sets of players at the campus and at the System level didn’t interact with each other in this exercise.

And then other campuses were simulated. And as I mentioned, we focused on damage. And here is a photo just so you can kind of get a sense, we at our level, you know, we didn’t actually set up in terms of like pods, and we didn’t use a, you know, traditional EOC setup because we are just so different. And I wanted to kind of see how this worked, having everyone just together in one room and it worked okay. I think we have some lessons learned but we don’t have that sort of familiar EOC setup that you’re used to probably at a local jurisdiction or you know, a campus. But we do also want to share with you one of these really cool videos that we made to simulate realism during the exercise for the players. So I think that Julie was going to pull that up so that we can get an example here.

Julie Reynolds  19:01

Yes, I am. And you actually if you could stop sharing your screen and then I can take over and share the video. That will be awesome. Let’s see here.

Jenny Novak  19:35

Yeah, so there’s no audio on this video because we use the actual news broadcasts and kind of tailor them up with these closed captioning subtitles so that it makes it look like it is an actual broadcast from one of our campuses, but it’s really just kind of a stock like news footage that actually Michael Edwards who was doing some of the Veoci simulations too, found online and was able to doctor it up so it looks like that. That’s just an example. And I think you can kind of get a feel for what we were doing with that now.

So I think we’re actually going to move into the Veoci use. So Stephanie. Should I stop sharing my screen now? Or are you going to?

How CSU Uses Veoci: A Demo

Stephanie Kim  21:34

Um, do you mind keeping it up just for this slide. And I think the next one as well.

 So at the CSU system, we kind of are working still in the early stages of implementing Veoci as a System wide tool. But it is available right now for our System campuses to use it. But at the Chancellor’s Office, it is our primary incident management software that we are working on building out and really expanding. And we’re also working on expanding its use in business continuity, because it’s a very useful tool for actually building out electronic business continuity plans, and then actually storing them and having them be regularly updated. So we are in the process of all of that.

Campuses have access to the system, as I mentioned a little bit earlier. And there are a couple of campuses that are also starting to build out their own system, but they basically exist as a different organization. So they have full functions and they have full capabilities to work on their own. But at the same time, it helps because we can coordinate through Veoci as well, even though we are technically different organizations in the system. So it’s really nice. And we’re hoping to eventually build it out System wide and have more campuses use it and really build out the functionality so that we could have a lot of cross campus and System wide collaboration ability.

And then another useful tool that the Veoci has is the capability to have different lists of staff in the system. And this is helpful because we can actually add staff from other campuses. So if we want to pull up quickly and contact different lists of like people spread across the entire System, we can do it really quickly in Veoci because we’ve already pre built that contact list. And then we can also quickly add them into different parts of the Veoci and then build that coordination almost immediately.

Jenny Novak  23:39

An example of that would be like all the Environmental Health and Safety Managers or you know, all the Police Chiefs or all the Provost’s or Student Affairs, not that we necessarily have them in there a lot. But that’s the idea is that because we function across, you know, so many campuses, but they all have sort of parallel positions like that people that are working on the same function, we can tie all those folks together in our regional incidents to make sure that they have a space for collaboration and information sharing in the system.

Stephanie Kim  24:14

So for this particular exercise we used, we wanted to test several new things that we built out, that Rachel helps me build out a lot in Veoci. And so we wanted to test the functionality of these tools. The first one was this Campus Situation Status Dashboard. I’ll walk through all of these also in a second. But then we wanted to try out our check in and checkout process that we built in Veoci so that we could quickly have electronic documentation for those things for whatever reimbursement purposes and so forth. And then of course, a major thing we use Veoci for is the Cockpit, which is where we do a lot of communications and internal coordination. It’s basically very useful for chatting virtually. And then the last one was our Resource Request Process, which was a big lift that Rachel really helped a lot with. And I’ll walk us through that in a second. So I guess I’ll just go ahead and start sharing my screen.

Jenny Novak  25:18

Are you seeing the Veoci screen here? Okay, great. So this is actually the Campus Status Dashboard that I mentioned first. It really just consolidates a lot of the information that we want to collect from campuses. And this Dashboard, as it is right now kind of also consolidated a lot of useful links for our Emergency Support Team Staff such as to check in checkout Form, which looks a bit like this, where it’s just very simple, you check in, and then you can pick the incident, operational period and other relevant information. And I will show how that comes into play later as well to form like a team directory for the day.

Stephanie Kim  26:15

But the main thing we use this Dashboard for is actually to collect information from the campuses using this Form. It’s our university status update Form. So in the in this case of an incident, we would actually request that all of our campuses fill out this Form, so that we can be quickly notified about basic information about their statuses such as whether they’re open, whether their EOC is activated, do they have an incident management team activated, what’s the status of their housing instruction, so we just collect a lot of pertinent information really quickly through this Form. We can also record how their campus has been impacted, so if any of their community members have lost their homes, or if there’s been any fatalities on the campus, you can actually report how many fatalities have occurred. And they can also select whether they require additional support from our Emergency Support Team immediately by completing this, just to let us know quickly what they need. And this Form also can allow them to enter in any relevant disaster declaration numbers for, you know, just to help keep track of them for documentation purposes. And then we can even get a link to if they have an emergency website for their campus, we can quickly record that.

And what we do with this information is it shows up on this Dashboard. The first one is probably the most valuable way it shows up is through this table here, which really just consolidates the key information from the Form. And we can quickly see where all the campuses are,what their status is and it should update as campuses enter in a new entry, it should actually replace the old entry. So it should be like a live update table with all this information. And then you can also see here below, we can highlight important numbers, such as the fatalities, the impacts, and then you can see how many campuses are closed or open. And here is where you can actually see all of the campus websites linked here. So we can actually quickly be able to go through each campus incident website.

And then another useful thing that we have is this map here. And this is actually just a Veoci function where you can open up a map in Veoci and really display relevant information. I’m just going to make it bigger so you can see it bigger. But these are basically their visual representations of where our campuses are and the colors correlate to their status of operations basically. So it’s really helpful for quick visual in that way.

And then the other thing we use Veoci as I mentioned was for the communication capabilities in what we call the Cockpit. This is just an example of what that would look like. It allows us to really just chat and sort our messages into Threads for further organization. And then what’s useful is we have these called Side Rooms. So each Side Room also has its own Cockpit so you can have more detailed conversations relevant to your branch of the Emergency Support Team so we can have more specific conversations happening in the background as well. And as I mentioned earlier with the check in Form, we are also able to basically show all the entries here. So it works sort of like a directory for the day. So if we’re working virtually, we can easily contact each other by knowing who’s checked in, and we can get all of their contact information quickly. But it hasn’t been filled out yet.

And then I think the last thing I wanted to show was how we use Veoci for our logistics resource request process. And this is basically the Logistics Side Room that I’ve pre opened here and we’ve made it just so that you can quickly get all the important information such as what are the open resource requests, how many resource requests are in each step. And this table here is actually something that our logistics team would actually populate using this Form. And it’s when  there are available resources specific to the incident that we already know are being made available by the state or by other campuses, we could just quickly enter them in so they show up in this table. And then when campuses actually go through the resource request process, they would fill out this Form here. And when they fill out this Form, they would actually have the ability to search through that available resource request list if they need to quickly request that available resource or they could complete the Form for other resources needed.

Just a quick overview of how our resource request system is built out. It starts with that request through that Form that we have the campuses fill out. It would then go to our Logistics Team for review. And we have a mutual aid process for if campuses need resources from a lot of campuses, so they could quickly get that resource. And that has a couple other steps. So the Logistics Team would determine if that resource request needs to go through that process and if they deem that it does have to go through that process, we built out several steps so that it can go through that process all through Veoci. And then it would just go to the fulfillment stage where we would just let the campuses know that it’s been sent and then the campuses would have the ability to confirm that the correct resource has been received on their campus and that there have been no problems. If there have been problems, they actually have the ability to let our Logistics Team know, and it would just kind of return to this step of the process. So it’s really a complex process but it’s all been built out of Veoci, which is really nice, because we could do it all virtually quickly, and we could also assign particular individuals each step and they get notified and so it really just moves along the process. I think that’s it.

Jenny Novak  32:53

So even though Stephanie was playing in the exercises, the situation status, she really had a lot of, you know, work that she did beforehand in order to create the tools that some of the other sections and players were going to be using during the exercise. So thank you, Stephanie.

So we just want to talk a little bit about the findings from the exercise. We really found through the exercise that we need to continue defining the capabilities of what the System Wide Emergency Support Team does versus what the campus EOCs can do. Because a lot of our staff at the Chancellor’s office level that don’t have, you know, maybe as much experience with the organization or knowledge of how things work in an emergency, sometimes assume that we need to do everything. Which is not the case, because the campuses really do have, you know, the capabilities to do a lot at that local level. So building that kind of awareness between the two of what each other does, and how we can work together is really going to be an essential kind of next step for us.

But we also found that we need to consider more for those hybrid situations, because we have been operating, you know, 100%, virtually when we did the wildfire activation, and some of the other things too. And prior to that, before Stephanie and I came, the EOC team that the

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