University Risk Management and Insurance Association
URMIA logo

Red arrow Risk Alerts

Red arrow Campus Shooting at Oikos University Leaves Seven Dead (4/4/12)

On Monday, April 2, 2012, a former nursing student allegedly shot and killed 7 individuals at Oikos University, a small Christian college in Oakland, California. The incident was one of the deadliest in California history. One Goh, the 43-year-old suspect, was apprehended by police after he allegedly shot and killed six students and one secretary and drove one of the victims’ cars to a grocery store, where he was arrested without incident. Three other people were wounded. On Tuesday evening, hundreds of people gathered for a memorial service, and classes at Oikos University were cancelled following the shooting.

URMIA extends its sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this tragic campus shooting, as well as our support to the entire Oikos University community.

For More Information:


Red arrow Nationwide Test of Emergency Alert System Scheduled for November 9 (11/3/11)

On November 9, 2011, at 2 pm EST, the US Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will conduct the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The national test may last up to three and a half minutes. The EAS is a national alert and warning system established to enable the President of the United States to address the American public during emergencies. NOAA's National Weather Service, governors, and state and local emergency authorities also use parts of the system to issue more localized emergency alerts.

Similar to local EAS tests that are already conducted frequently, the nationwide test will involve broadcast radio and television stations, cable television, satellite radio, and television services and wireline video service providers across all states and the territories of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.

For complete information about the national EAS test, view the FEMA press release or the FCC's informational website about the EAS.


Red arrow Largest Earthquake in Japanese History Strikes Offshore of Tokyo, Causing Powerful Tsunamis (3/11/11)

On March 11 at 2:46 pm local time, an earthquake measuring 8.9 magnitude struck off the shore of Japan northeast of Tokyo. This powerful earthquake, the strongest ever recorded in Japan, triggered a 30-foot tsunami that swept people, boats, cars, buildings, and wreckage miles inland. There were hundreds of confirmed casualties at the development of this risk alert, but the death toll is likely to climb given the devastation witnessed across the northeast part of the country. Communication and transportation systems were hampered or completely shut off in parts of the country, and citizens living near a nuclear power plant were evacuated after the plant's cooling system failed following the quake. Aftershocks continued in the wake of the initial earthquake, and tsunami alerts were issued for the low-lying islands of the Pacific, as well as the western coast of the United States, Canada, and South America.

The US Department of State has issued a travel alert to Japan in the aftermath of the initial earthquake. US citizens are urged to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time. Strong aftershocks are likely for weeks after such a strong earthquake and could continue to impact communications, travel, and safety.

URMIA will monitor this developing situation and follow impacts particularly to higher education and study abroad programs. Our thoughts are with the residents of Japan. For those URMIA members with students, faculty, or staff in Japan, we hope you are able to locate your constituents and that all are safe. If you need help or if you would like to provide assistance to other URMIA members, please don't hesitate to contact the URMIA National Office.


Red arrow A 6.3-Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Christchurch, New Zealand; Casualties Reported (2/22/11)

On Tuesday evening, February 22, a powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, leveling buildings and killing at least 166 people, as of 3/8/11. A series of aftershocks have followed the quake, and the final death toll may rise as efforts to rescue those who are trapped continue. Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker declared a state of emergency for the city in the hours after the earthquake.

Southern New Zealand has been hit by a series of quakes and aftershocks since a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit the area on September 4, 2010. No deaths occurred in the previous quake, and injuries were limited due to the timing and location of the quake.

URMIA will monitor emerging information from Christchurch, including impacts on higher education. For an update on the aftermath of the September earthquake, visit the January edition of URMIA Insights. We send our sympathy to those who lost family, friends, or loved ones in this earthquake and hope for the best in the city's recovery. If you have questions or information about this crisis, please don't hesitate to contact the URMIA National Office.


Red arrow US Department of State Releases Travel Alert for Egypt: Study Abroad Programs and University Trips Impacted (2/3/11)

On January 28, the US Department of State issued a travel alert for Egypt due to ongoing political and social unrest throughout the country. The travel alert asks American citizens to reschedule non-essential travel to the country and for those in the country to exercise caution and avoid demonstrations. The State Department also urges US citizens in Egypt to sign up with Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP), featured in the December 2010 edition of URMIA Insights. By enrolling, the US embassy can more easily contact and locate US citizens in Egypt and around the world in case of emergency.

The unrest in Egypt has posed particular problems for colleges and universities with students, faculty, or staff in the country. There have been numerous stories of student evacuations since protests began. The events in Egypt have highlighted the need for all higher education risk managers with students, faculty, or staff abroad to make sure their contingency plans are updated and functional. Knowing where a university's people are, being able to contact them, tracking current events across the globe, and practicing and improving evacuation plans can help a university address and mitigate risks when faced with volatile situations.

URMIA will continue to monitor this evolving situation. For further information or to share updates, members can contact the URMIA National Office at 812-855-6683 or


Red arrow Clarifying Travel Policy Coverage for Colleges in Ohio: Why All Risk Managers Should Review Their Own Policies (1/3/11)

A December 28 Ohio Supreme Court ruling may challenge risk managers to review their travel policies and coverages if students are in an accident while riding on rented buses or other non-university-owned vehicles. Typically, colleges and universities assume coverage for injuries in accidents when university-owned vehicles are involved. However, when students travel on rented buses or other vehicles, colleges and universities assume that, should an accident happen, the transportation providers' own insurance would provide suitable coverage.

According to an Inside Higher Ed article on the court case, victims of a 2007 bus crash which killed five Bluffton University student baseball players and injured others received compensation from the bus company and from the State of Georgia. However, lower courts had ruled that the university could not also be required to provide coverage for the accident, finding that, under Bluffton's automobile insurance policy with Hartford Fire Insurance Company, the bus company and its driver could not be considered as "insured."

The Ohio Supreme Court ruling, though, reviewed the Bluffton University policy's "omnibus clause," which defines as insured "[a]nyone else while using with your permission a covered 'auto' you own, hire, or borrow" and the driver does not meet any of five exceptions to that clause contained in the policy. The court found that the policy did apply to this case since Bluffton University hired the bus company and granted the driver permission to drive the bus, which could lead to additional damages paid by the university to the crash victims.

This case highlights the need for higher education risk managers to carefully review their own policies with legal counsel to check for similar language. Although this case occurred in Ohio, colleges and universities can stay ahead of the curve by reviewing their own policy language. Ada Meloy, general counsel at the American Council on Education, explained in the Inside Higher Ed article, "The [Bluffton University] policy did not extend exceptions to the agents and employees of the vehicle owner, which is what caused the real problem here. College and university risk managers should be looking to see whether their policy has the same language as this Hartford policy."


Red arrow Risk Managers and Travel Abroad Programs Cooperate in Concerted Effort to Maintain Student Safety in Mexico (12/6/10)

International student, faculty, and staff travel can be a risky proposition, but it is one that universities must manage to maintain safety and mitigate risks. A November 30 CNN article reported on the latest student safety concerns after a drug cartel kidnapped and held for ransom three students at the prestigious Tecnológico de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico. While universities should exercise caution in making programmatic decisions based on a single incident, such reports of violence make it increasingly important for a calm but concerted effort between university study abroad administrators, risk managers, and their travelers to make these trips as safe as possible.

In light of this recent violence, universities also need to continually review increases in crime or violence specifically in areas in which their students are actively studying or planning to study. Cooperation between departments can help track incidents of such crime and allow universities to make informed decisions regarding the safety of their different study abroad locations, throughout Mexico and around the world.

URMIA will continue to monitor this evolving situation. For further information or to share study abroad updates, members can contact the URMIA National Office at 812-855-6683 or or contact fellow members directly via the URMIA listserv. To view the complete CNN article, click here.


Red arrow Enormous 8.8 Earthquake in Chile and Subsequent Aftershocks Have Huge Impacts on Concepción and Santiago (3/9/10)

On Saturday, February 27, an earthquake with an extremely powerful magnitude of 8.8 on the Richter scale struck 200 miles southwest of Chile’s capital of Santiago. Following the initial earthquake, powerful aftershocks rocked the cities of Santiago and Concepción, the closest urban area to the earthquake’s epicenter. According to the Washington Post, there have been over 200 aftershocks above magnitude 5 and thousands of smaller ones since the initial quake. The earthquake impacted infrastructure, toppled buildings, and crushed roads and bridges in Santiago and Concepción; had serious impacts on Chile’s copper mines and wineries; and temporarily shut down oil operations.

The impacts on human life and the final death toll from the quake are not yet completely clear, although the government estimated up to 800 deaths as of the development of this alert. In addition to direct impacts of the earthquake, a tsunami that crashed into Chile’s southern and central coast after the earthquake washed an unknown number of people out to sea. According to researchers in a Los Angeles Times article, the Chilean earthquake moved Concepción at least 10 feet west and Santiago 11 inches to the west-southwest.

We send our hopes and prayers to the residents of Chile who have been impacted by the earthquake and its aftershocks. For those URMIA members with students, faculty, or staff in Chile, we offer any assistance we can provide and hope that any faculty, staff, or students you have there have been accounted for and are safe.

For information on donating to the rescue efforts in Chile, CBS News provides a comprehensive list of organizations involved with relief work in the area.


Red arrow Powerful 7.0 Earthquake Devastates Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince (1/14/10)

On Tuesday, January 12, at 4:53 pm local time, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale hit Haiti, the epicenter 15 miles from Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. Since then, more than 40 strong aftershocks have struck the devastated capital. The earthquake made roads impassable and collapsed entire sections of buildings and homes, trapping as of yet countless numbers of people. The Presidential Palace and the hotel in which the UN was housed both experienced significant damage; as of the writing of this risk alert, the UN still could not account for 150 personnel. With schools, hospitals, houses, hotels, and other buildings toppled throughout the capital, residents have been forced into the streets, creating makeshift camps where an unknown number of survivors may be lacking access to clean water, food, and medical care. Communication networks are down, making it very difficult to account for missing individuals.

One-third of the country’s nine million people live in the Port-au-Prince area, and the government fears that deaths could be in the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. While countries across the globe are mobilizing help and medical aid as quickly as possible, getting assistance to survivors is already proving difficult due to impassable roads and the sheer number of people injured or still missing or trapped.

Our thoughts are with the residents of Port-au-Prince. For those URMIA members with students, faculty, or staff in Haiti, we hope you are able to locate your constituents and that all are safe. If you need help or if you would like to provide assistance to URMIA members impacted by this crisis, please don’t hesitate to contact the URMIA National Office.

For information on providing monetary support to the rescue efforts, please view CNN's listing of organizations involved with relief work in the area.


Red arrow Resources and Information Regarding 2009 H1N1 Influenza Outbreak (last updated 11/30/09)

Please note that this resource list will be continuously updated as additional resources become available. If you have a link to a resource or an informational site that would be useful to the URMIA membership, please send it to the URMIA National Office for possible inclusion.

Latest Updates (11/30/09):

Resources and Plans from Higher Education – 2009 H1N1 Influenza Outbreak and Pandemic Response

Current Updates – 2009 H1N1 Influenza Outbreak

Pandemic Response Plans, White Papers, and Guidance Documents

Red arrow World Health Organization Raises Pandemic Alert Level for H1N1 Influenza to Phase 6 (6/11/09)

On June 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the pandemic alert level to Phase 6, the highest level.

WHO had declared a Phase 5 alert on April 29. According to WHO, a Phase 6 alert level indicates that there are community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region than initial outbreaks, in addition to the criteria already met in lower phases. At Phase 6, a global pandemic is underway. However, this designation does not indicate that the H1N1 virus has become more deadly or dangerous; it strictly refers to contagiousness, or how it is spread communally, and location, or the different countries to which it has spread.

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, explained in a statement to the press on June 11, "No previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning. The world can now reap the benefits of investments, over the last five years, in pandemic preparedness." Her statement also describes the health effects that the world has witnessed thus far, as well as descriptions of particularly susceptible populations and potential effects that countries should anticipate. As of Dr. Chan’s statement, almost 30,000 cases had been confirmed in 74 countries.

For more information and additional resources, visit the URMIA risk alert, Resources and Information Regarding 2009 H1N1 Influenza Outbreak.

Red arrow NEW Swine Flu Outbreak in Mexico, United States (4/24/09)

Update, 4/27/09: The United States has declared the swine flu a public health emergency. The declaration allows the head of the Department of Health and Human Services to take quick action to respond to the disease if needed. The agency currently is waiting for President Obama's designee, Kathleen Sebelius, to be approved by the Senate. As of Monday, April 27, there were 20 confirmed cases in five states in the U.S. and six cases in Canada, and the first case of the disease in Europe had been confirmed in Spain. It was suspected in up to 103 deaths in Mexico.

A recent outbreak of a deadly sickness in Mexico and several cases of illness in the United States have been linked to swine flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the virus that has sickened U.S. and Mexico residents is a mixture of viruses typical among pigs, birds, and humans. As of the development of this risk alert, seven American citizens in Texas and California have fallen ill with this new kind of swine flu, but all have recovered. In Mexico, however, at least 16 people have been killed by the illness and more than 800 have fallen ill. Mexico City has closed schools from the kindergarten to university level and urged any residents with flu symptoms to stay at home.

CDC officials have found that the virus contains human virus, avian virus from North America, and pig viruses from North America, Europe, and Asia. Such a transcontinental mixture of viruses has never been seen before. Whether the virus is new or not is difficult to ascertain; its discovery may be due to improved testing and the unusual circumstances under which it was first diagnosed in the U.S.

The virus was first detected in two children in southern California. One of the cases was discovered at a Navy clinic that focuses on specialized disease detection, while the second case was discovered through a specialized surveillance system in border communities. By Thursday, April 23, CDC officials had discovered five more cases: three in California and two near San Antonio, Texas. They are still working to discover whether the cases in the U.S. are tied to those in Mexico and how the two Texas residents were sickened by the virus.

University risk managers may wish to proactively contact their study abroad offices and/or monitor this situation for a period of time while the situation is fully evaluated by the appropriate health authorities.

URMIA encourages all of its members to review different resources available relating to pandemic response to ensure your institution is prepared. The URMIA White Paper, Pandemic Response, provides helpful information regarding pandemic response options. UC Davis’ Avian Influenza Pandemic Business Continuity Planning Guide, also offers helpful guidance for handling pandemics on the university campus. The CDC also offers an informational website with current details about swine flu and this particular strain. If you have additional questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact URMIA National Office.

Information Resources

For additional information and resources on pandemic response, visit the URMIA Resource Library and enter "pandemic" in the key word search field.

"Swine Flu ('Pig Flu') in Mexico and the USA." International SOS Update, 2009 (accessed 4/27/09).

Lacey, Marc and McNeil, Jr., Donald G. "Mexico Shuts Schools Amid Deadly Flu Outbreak." The New York Times, April 24, 2009 (accessed 4/24/09).

"Mexico Links Sickness, Deaths to Swine Flu." Fox News, April 24, 2009 (accessed 4/24/09).

"Pandemic Flu." American College Health Association, 2009 (accessed 4/28/09).

"Swine Influenza (Flu)." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 24, 2009 (accessed 4/24/09).

Red arrow Earthquake Strikes in Central Italy, Directly Impacting the University of L’Aquila and Tens of Thousands of Area Residents (4/6/09)

On Monday, April 6 at 3:30 am local time, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 on the Richter scale struck central Italy. The college town of L’Aquila, home to University of L’Aquila and located about 70 miles northeast of Rome, was heavily impacted by the earthquake. The quake also affected 26 towns and cities around L’Aquila; the small town of Onno was almost completely leveled. The University of L’Aquila, which welcomes students in study abroad programs, witnessed the collapse of one of its dormitories. By Monday afternoon, rescue efforts were still underway as people dug through the rubble searching for trapped victims. According to Italian news agency Ansa, at least seven students were trapped in the partially collapsed university dormitory, and one student’s body had been pulled from the rubble. Over 100 people were confirmed dead at the writing of this risk alert in the country’s deadliest earthquake in almost 30 years.

L’Aquila is known for its historic architecture with churches dating back to the 12th Century. Many of these historic structures were damaged or collapsed in the earthquake and in over a dozen aftershocks. In this mountainous region full of historic buildings, it has been difficult to get help to residents and to evacuate others. Access roads have been cleared of major debris, but main highways were still closed to most traffic. Smaller roads within cities have also been blocked by crumbling buildings. It is estimated that tens of thousands are homeless, and at least 1,500 were injured. Because of structural damage to L’Aquila’s main hospital, parts of the building were evacuated, and a field hospital was being set up to help treat the many injuries sustained during the quake. Premier Silvio Berlusconi declared a state of emergency in order to funnel federal funds towards the region to help aid recovery.

URMIA urges any of its members with study abroad operations to check on students who may be in or traveling through potentially affected areas in central Italy to assure their health and safety after this crisis. URMIA extends its sympathy to anyone with students impacted by the earthquake. If help is needed or if you would like to provide assistance to URMIA members impacted by this crisis, please don’t hesitate to contact the URMIA National Office.

Information Resources

Casale, Jeff. "Italian Quake Causes Significant Damage." Business Insurance, April 6, 2009 (accessed 4/7/09).

Falconi, Marta. "91 Dead, 1,500 Injured in Central Italy Quake." The Associated Press, April 6, 2009 (accessed 4/6/09).

Scherer, Steve and Rotondi, Flavia. "Italy Earthquake Kills 150, Leaves Thousands Homeless." Bloomberg, April 6, 2009 (accessed 4/6/09).


Red arrow Fire in Santa Barbara Area Burns through the Campus of URMIA Member Westmont College (11/14/08)

On the evening of November 13, 2008, the powerful "Tea Fire," which by the afternoon of November 14 had burned over 100 homes and roughly 2,500 acres in the Santa Barbara and Montecito area of Southern California, tore through the campus of Westmont College. Students and staff of the 1,300-student college, which is a member of URMIA, took shelter in the gymnasium. At 11:36 pm that night, campus leaders, in conjunction with the Fire Department and Red Cross, made the decision to remain in the gym, but soon after, a natural gas line broke, and gas service and electricity were shut off.

Thankfully, no one on the campus was injured in the fire, and by the morning of November 14, all fires on campus were extinguished and damage assessment had begun. Reports from Westmont College indicate that it has lost eight structures, four buildings in Clark Halls, 14 faculty homes, the physics building, the old math building, and the two quonset huts. The later three structures were scheduled for demolition. On behalf of URMIA, we extend our support to Westmont College. If you think you may know, perhaps through your own experience with similar situations, specific ways we can be of assistance to Westmont College and Director of Risk Management, Troy Harris at this time, please contact the National Office. URMIA would like to lend any assistance it can to help make the assessment and rebuilding process go more smoothly. We will also be glad to pass along information and requests for assistance from Westmont as we receive them.

For More Information:
Westmont College Disaster Update Site.

Biemiller, Lawrence. "California Wildfire Sweeps Across Westmont College Campus." Chronicle of Higher Education, November 14, 2008 (accessed 11/14/08).


Red arrow Enforcement of Part of the FACT Act’s Identity Theft Red Flags Rule Is Delayed Six Months (10/22/08)

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on Wednesday, October 22 during an EDUCAUSE webcast that there would be a six-month delay before enforcement of part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Identity Theft Red Flags Rule would go into effect. The Red Flags Rule amends the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACT) Act of 2003 and focuses on the portion of the Act pertaining to identity theft. With this extension, financial institutions and creditors will have an extension on the development and implementation of plans to detect, prevent, and mitigate identity theft.

Enforcement for duties under 16 CFR 681.2 will be enforced starting May 1, 2009. The deadline for other duties and compliance obligations under 16 CFR 681.1 and 16 CFR 681.3 is still Saturday, November 1, 2008. URMIA members should consult with legal counsel to assess the scope of any enforcement delay in the context of the school’s activities.

According to an FTC press release, the Red Flags Rule requires that financial institutions and creditors develop and implement "identity theft prevention programs to identify, detect, and respond to patterns, practices, or specific activities that could indicate identity theft." This rule applies to any business, organization, or institution that regularly extends, renews, or continues credit; any entity that regularly arranges for the extension, renewal, or continuation of credit; or any assignee of an original creditor who is involved in the decision to extend, renew, or continue credit. During the EDUCAUSE webcast, Naomi Lefkovitz, an attorney in the FTC's Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, explained that few colleges or universities would be defined as financial institutions, but any campus that allows, for instance, students to defer payment or use ID cards as credit cards would be required to fit the Red Flags Rule and develop a plan to prevent identity theft security issues. Click here for more information about what institutions are covered by the rule.

Historically, the FTC has not had jurisdiction over higher education activities. Since many institutions do not report to the FTC for other activities, higher education had not participated in the rulemaking or studied the implications of compliance. The extension allows institutions not aware of the rule’s legal obligations to bring programs into compliance. During the webcast, Lefkowitz stressed the importance of systemizing "red flag" procedures that may already be in place on campus into specific processes and procedures. NACUBO is currently offering guidance for how to develop such a plan, and URMIA will continue to monitor this situation and provide additional resources and templates as they are made available.

To view the FTC’s Identity Theft website, click here. To view the EDUCAUSE webcast on October 22, 2008: Lefkowitz, Naomi. "FACT Act: An Overview of the Final Rulemaking on Identity Theft Red Flags and Address Discrepancies." EDUCAUSE webcast. October 22, 2008 (accessed 10/23/08).

For More Information:
DeBolt, David. "Enforcement Delayed on Identity-Theft Regulations." The Chronicle of Higher Education. October 22, 2008 (accessed 10/23/08).

Federal Trade Commission. "FTC Will Grant Six-Month Delay of Enforcement of 'Red Flags' Rule Requiring Creditors and Financial Institutions to Have Identity Theft Prevention Programs." October 22, 2008 (accessed 10/23/08).

National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). "FTC Red Flags Rule" (accessed 10/23/08).


Red arrow Information and Updates Regarding the American International Group, Inc. (AIG) (9/22/08)

On Tuesday, September 16, the New York Federal Reserve Bank and AIG’s Board of Directors announced an agreement for a two-year loan to AIG of up to $85 billion. As a result of this transaction, the federal government will receive a 79.9% equity interest in AIG. This loan allows AIG to meet its current demands, easing many short-term individual, business, and institutional insurance concerns.

Key points of this situation as they stand now are as follows:

  • AIG Commercial Insurance stresses that it maintains adequate capacity to continue covering all policyholder claims, which total approximately $73 million each day.
  • AIG Commercial Insurance is separate from its parent, AIG holdings, for which the bailout applies.
  • As of today, September 22, 2008, the AIG parent indicates it has no intention to sell AIG Commercial Insurance.
  • This situation is still constantly evolving and very fluid. Please refer to informational sources listed below and daily news reports for information as it unfolds.
  • For more information on how this news may impact college and university risk managers, read the Chronicle of Higher Education’s September 18 article, "As Insurance Giant Stumbles, Colleges Fret Over Policies."

URMIA will continue to post updates and communications from AIG on URMIA’s home page for all members to access. A discussion forum for URMIA members has also been created for those with concerns about AIG’s current status. If you need assistance retrieving your URMIA user name or password, please contact the National Office at 812-855-6683 or Your discussion post will be listed with your URMIA user name attached. If you would like to identify yourself, please be sure to end your post with your name and any contact information you wish to post.

Additional information can be found through the following links:

Additional sources:

Kelderman, Eric. "As Insurance Giant Stumbles, Colleges Fret Over Policies." Chronicle of Higher Education, Today’s News, September 18, 2008 (accessed 9/19/08).


Red arrow NOAA Public Alert Radios Sent to U.S. Schools for Emergency Use (8/29/08)

In August 2008, a group of federal agencies began the next phase of a program that aims to provide schools across the country with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Public Alert Radios for use in emergency situations. Targeted schools for this phase of the program include public and non-public preschools, K-12 non-public schools, K-12 public and non-public district offices, and public and non-public post-secondary schools. During the first phase of this project, nearly 100,000 radios were distributed to K-12 public schools, and NOAA anticipates distributing another 183,000 of the radios during this second phase.

The Public Alert Radios are being distributed by NOAA in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services. It is anticipated that administrators at post-secondary institutions should be receiving the radios in upcoming weeks. The radios will be used to notify schools of dangers such as severe weather, terrorist threats, and other local and national emergencies. The radios will be available 24 hours a day and can be used even if other forms of communication are not functional. The program also encourages emergency preparedness through close communication between school leaders and their emergency managers; this will assist schools in developing and coordinating response plans with the institution’s alert and warning systems, including the new Public Alert Radios.

For more information:
"’America Is Safer When Our Schools Are Safer’: U.S. Schools Receive Life-Saving NOAA Public Alert Radios." National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, August 19, 2008 (accessed 8/29/08).

"Public Alert Radios for Schools." National Weather Service, August 21, 2008 (accessed 8/29/08).

For a pdf version of this article, click here.

Posted 8/29/08


Red arrow Higher Education Act Is Signed into Law (8/14/08)

On August 14, 2008, the Higher Education Act was signed into law by President Bush. The Higher Education Act has been five years in the making and governs federal student aid, but it also has impacts on campus risk management offices.

URMIA’s online newsletter, Insights, has been watching this act in terms of its repercussions on the higher education risk management realm (see the December 2007 and July 2008 articles). Several provisions in the legislation will be of interest to college and university risk managers:

  • The bill provides a competitive matching grant program for campuses to fund safety and security initiatives, including emergency response protocol development and implementation. These grants will fund up to 50% of the cost of development of state-of-the-art emergency communication systems, safety and notification procedures following an emergency, measures to improve campus safety overall, and communications with local mental health and crisis response services.
  • Under the Clery Act, procedures for emergency response, notification, and evacuation must be tested on an annual basis; however, these tests can be table-top tests or simulations.
  • Dropped from the Act’s language is the 30-minute requirement for notification of students, faculty, and staff during emergency situations. Also dropped is the proposed creation of a National Center for Campus Public Safety.
  • Colleges and universities will be required to report and track fires that cause personal or property damage.
  • The bill also establishes the Education Disaster and Emergency Relief Loan Program, designed to provide assistance to higher education institutions resulting from a federally declared disaster or emergency.
  • Campuses must provide students with access to legal music downloading services and plan and implement computer filtering technologies to deter peer-to-peer filesharing. Colleges and universities must also develop plans for limiting further sharing of copyrighted materials. Students must be notified on an annual basis of the civil and criminal penalties they can incur with such filesharing and of the campus’ own policies concerning unauthorized filesharing of copyrighted materials.

To View the Higher Education Act:
"H.R. 4137: College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008." (accessed 8/5/08).

For More Information:
"Congress Approves HEA Reauthorization, New Grant Program." Campus Safety Magazine, July 20, 2008 (accessed 8/5/08).

"Commentary – The New Higher Education Act: Where It Comes Up Short." Chronicle of Higher Education, August 8, 2008 (accessed 8.5/08).

Field, Kelly. "A Bill That Took Longer than a Bachelor's Degree: Higher Education Act, Five Years in the Making, Gets Closer to the President's Desk." Chronicle of Higher Education, August 8, 2008 (accessed 8/5/08).

Kane, Paul. "House, Senate Pass Overhaul of Higher-Education Programs." Washington Post, August 1, 2008 (accessed 8/5/08).

For a pdf version of this article, click here.

Posted 8/14/08


Red arrow Campus Flooding at the University of Iowa (6/20/08)

This June, major flooding has had a serious impact across parts of the Midwest, including Iowa and the University of Iowa (UI) campus in Iowa City. In nearby Cedar Rapids, floodwaters hit a 500-year high, and by June 19, 80 of Iowa’s 99 counties were declared state disaster areas. Rising floodwaters forced UI to close campus buildings, some indefinitely; impacted all campus operations, summer classes, and research; and made travel both on- and off-campus either difficult or impossible. Other colleges and universities, such as Coe College in Cedar Rapids, have also experienced damage as a result of the flooding.

R. David Paulison, the administrator of FEMA, described the flooding in Iowa as the worst that FEMA has handled since Hurricane Katrina. On June 19, the Iowa House delegation succeeded in urging the House Appropriations Committee to include $2.65 billion dollars in emergency funding in the Emergency Supplemental bill. This emergency funding would be distributed between FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, SBA Disaster Loans, and Agricultural Assistance.

University of Iowa Flood Relief Fund
The UI Foundation has created a flood relief fund, accepting donations from anyone who wants to help the university recover from the devastating floods of June 2008.

Gifts may be made to the fund online at or Gifts may also be sent to the UI Foundation, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, Iowa 52244-4550.

For more information, visit the University of Iowa Flood Relief Fund.

Emergency Communications
UI News Services developed a blog to help communicate essential information related to the flooding to the campus community and others. Entries include information about road and building closures, housing and neighborhood evacuations, program cancellations, health and safety concerns, employee information, links to photos, bus schedules, and media briefings.

Summer Classes
Starting on Monday, June 23, summer classes will resume at UI. While campus operations are far from "back to normal," the university has made resuming summer classes a top priority since many students rely on summer classes to meet their academic goals. The university has posted extensive information online for students, detailing where different campus operations have moved, such as the Memorial Union Bookstore, as well as how students can find out where their summer courses are being held.

Information Resources
University of Iowa Flood Information Site

University of Iowa Flood Stories

To view 500-year flood maps of the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids, click here.

Posted 6/20/08


Red arrow Campus Shooting at Northern Illinois University (2/14/08)

At approximately 3 p.m. Thursday, February 14, 2008, a gunman, carrying one shotgun and two handguns, opened fire in Cole Hall on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

NIU Police officers were on the scene in less than two minutes and the gunman was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound a short time later. Police have not released the identity of the gunman. At this time, there is no known motive.

Eighteen students were transported to Kishwaukee Community Hospital in DeKalb. Read more...

Posted 2/25/08


Red arrow New York Expands Inquiry into U.S. Study-Abroad Programs

An investigation of U.S. college study-abroad programs by the New York attorney general's office has expanded to include 15 colleges and universities, among them Harvard, Brown and Columbia, a senior lawyer in the office says.

Investigators for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo are asking about who at each college is responsible for approving contracts related to study abroad, how each institution selects the programs it approves and whether it has received anything of value from a study-abroad provider, among other issues, according to the lawyer and to representatives of some of the colleges that received the subpoenas and requests. Read more...


Red arrow DHS Chemical Facility Security Rule

The Department of Homeland Security published the final list of chemicals of interest included as Appendix A to the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) in the Federal Register on November 20, 2007 making the Rule final. Institutions holding chemicals of interest in the screening threshold quantities listed in Appendix A are required to submit a Top Screen of their chemical holdings within 60 calendar days. The Department of Homeland Security is providing institutions the opportunity to request a 60 day extension to submit Top-Screen.


Red arrow Legal Liability & Virginia Tech

Legal Talk Network recently featured a discussion on legal liability and the Virginia Tech shootings. Co-hosts and bloggers Bob Ambrogi and J. Craig Williams get insight from guests, Professor Anthony Sebok, Centennial Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research at the Brooklyn School of Law and (URMIA member) Attorney Robert B. Smith from the firm Nelson, Kinder, Mosseau, & Saturley.

Story URL

Red arrow Crisis Communications

No one wants to wait until a crisis happens to find out your communications are not up to the latest technology in order to notify every one in time. Take some time to review your communications plans in the face of an emergency. Below are some links and resources that can assist you with this.

Learn more at...


Red arrow Pandemic Flu

Avian influenza virus usually refers to influenza a viruses found chiefly in birds, but infections can occur in humans. The risk is generally low to most people, because the viruses do not usually infect humans. However, confirmed cases of human infection have been reported since 1997.

Learn more at...


Red arrow Terrorism

Learn more at...