Rev. Mark F. Plaushin, October 2009
(The Morning Call - 10/3/09)
W e are sad to learn of the death of Cornell University student Warren Schor from complications associated with H1N1 influenza.
While most colleges report that H1N1 isn't posing a significant threat, his death at age 20 highlights the need for shared concern on college campuses.
St. Francis de Sales, our patron saint, emphasized readiness for the exigencies found in the present moment. Such readiness reflects an appreciation of the opportunities, people and challenges God sends our way on a given day.
Such a challenge is the H1N1 virus. We cannot predict its arrival or potential. But can we learn from its visit?
In our case, the DeSales Emergency Management Office is leading the efforts to mitigate the risk from the virus.
Like many colleges, we have implemented a pandemic response protocol, focusing on common-sense precautions, communicating information clearly to the campus community and parents, and developing a flexible array of responses if we face more acute circumstances.
But our chief asset in dealing with a possible outbreak is a collaborative culture, fostered by a spirit of partnership between students and staff.
This collaborative effort has led ideas to percolate from student-resident advisers, peer mentors, student journalists, work-study students, student-government officers and student emergency medical service personnel. Even casual suggestions are welcomed.
We are now educating our community, parents and others about H1N1, its potential, and most importantly, common sense interventions that reduce the risk of getting the flu: hand washing, the use of hand sanitizer, not sharing beverage containers, self-isolating if sick and so forth.
We are gathering regional, national and global data at various Web sites, such as those maintained by the state Department of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
We are even monitoring health department sites in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, the home states of many of our students.
We are using our campus emergency alert system to share essential information with the DeSales family and guests. This allows us to send messages in a wide variety of formats, especially text messages.
We've also set up a ''H1N1 Flu Information'' link on our Web site.
While H1N1 appears to be a low risk, we cannot assume it will remain so. Selected employees and students have been trained to step into emergency management roles should extraordinary reorganization of university resources be required.
H1N1 is not the first challenge that our faculty and staff have helped students face, and it certainly won't be the last.
While plans, technology and effective leadership are critical, it is more important that community members feel confident, capable, competent and enjoy increasing resilience.
When plans come apart, technology fails and leaders make mistakes, it is resilience that empowers people and communities in crisis.
Certainly our commitment to individual and community well-being undergirds our planning.
If H1N1 makes its touted tour, we hope to find that our collaborative effort as well as our investment in enhancing personal and community resilience is a lesson well learned.
The Rev. Mark F. Plaushin, Oblates of St. Francis DeSales, is director of the DeSales University Emergency Management Office.
Copyright © 2009, The Morning Call
Press Release: Collaborative approach could help campuses confront H1N1 | Posted on: 10/3/2009
For more info:
Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
DeSales University | 2255 Station Avenue | Center Valley, PA 18034
610.282.1100 x1219 | Tom.McNamara@desales.edu