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An Evaluation of Shelter-in-Place Facilities


Providing a safe and secure learning environment is one of the primary functions of institutions of higher education. A key to creating that environment is the identification of rooms that can be used during emergencies. These shelter-in-place rooms can provide a safe refuge for students, faculty, staff, and visitors on the West Virginia State University campus. The administration of West Virginia State University, in conjunction with their faculty and staff, initiated this study to investigate the best locations for emergency sheltering.
The assessment conducted on the WVSU campus found that the majority of the rooms selected for shelter-in-place would be more than adequate. It is important to note that the rooms were evaluated not just for threats from the nearby Bayer CropScience but also for threats from weather events, human-caused activities and transportation accidents.
There are several general considerations that related to all of the identified rooms. The most challenging factor for utilizing shelter-in-place rooms is ensuring access to the rooms. Many of the rooms are locked and it was difficult to find a person to open the rooms; that would be unacceptable during an emergency. Something must be done to ensure that the rooms are open.  Another consideration is that the rooms need to be completely closed and sealed to ensure the safety of the people inside the shelter.
In addition, it is recommended that the Erickson Alumni Center be used as the emergency command and control facility for the campus emergencies. That facility is secure and offers a much better location for command and control than the current designated location in the McNeill Facilities Building.
The final step in the successful use of the recommended rooms is training and education. All of the faculty, staff and students need to be provided the information necessary to make informed decisions regarding shelter-in-place. In addition, this information needs to be provided in multiple formats utilizing a range of communication methods (i.e. include on course syllabi, social media and YouTube videos).
We still have concern about special population access to all of the facilities. Many court rulings from around the country have found that separate but equal shelters are not legal. This suggests that all shelters need to be equally accessible to all people, including those with functional needs.

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