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Mark Wilson puts safety first

New emergency-preparedness manager’s goal: to help Roadrunners organize and communicate to make fast decisions.

By Doug McPherson

November 19, 2019

Mark Wilson in his office holding hard had.It might sound odd coming from an expert in emergency preparedness, but Mark Wilson says he has grown comfortable with sitting still and contemplating. In fact, that’s how a lot of Wilson’s time is spent as Metropolitan State University of Denver’s new emergency-preparedness manager.

“I think about better ways to do things, about options to build redundancy, about horrible things that could derail our operations, about how to deliver emergency management in an engaging way,” Wilson said. “After all, wasn’t I asked to join the University because of what’s in my head?”

Point made.

Beyond thinking, Wilson’s approach to emergency preparedness includes meeting and communicating regularly with University stakeholders as well as fellow emergency-preparedness and -response officials from across the Auraria Campus. What he learns, he integrates into plans that “move (the University) a little closer to the unachievable goal of readiness.”

Before joining MSU Denver, Wilson created emergency-management programs for Dartmouth College and the University of Denver. He also served as an emergency medical technician, a paramedic, a fire-safety officer and an investigator. He’ll need to pull from all of that experience to work effectively on a tri-institutional campus and with the Auraria Higher Education Center, which has legal authority over the Auraria Police Department, the campus’ Office of Emergency Management, the management of nearly all MSU Denver buildings and the direct link to the City of Denver.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind model that presents enormous challenges,” Wilson said. “This is the first (model) that doesn’t include public safety, the majority of the built environment or direct partnership with the municipality. The existence of (AHEC) and their intense focus on public safety does, however, allow me to focus more time on continuity of operations, an area that’s often pretty thin at (other) universities.”

Here, Wilson follows “an all-hazards approach” to emergency management. This helps ensure that MSU Denver isn’t blindsided by a crisis it didn’t plan for and that there are coordination and strategies in place that can be readily applied to any emergency.

“Plans don’t manage emergencies; people do,” he said. “If I can define the roles and responsibilities of positions during an emergency, then I can turn them loose on an incident and they’ll get the job done.”

Within the next few months, Wilson and his team will debut an Emergency Management Framework, an Emergency Operations Plan, a Continuity of Operations Plan, an Emergency Recovery Guide and a Multi-Year Training and Exercise Plan. The documents will define clear coordinating structures to make the University’s response and recovery more efficient. Additionally, each department will have a continuity liaison to assist with needs assessments and communication during an emergency.

This directly supports Wilson’s only goal: “By the time I’ve run my course at MSU Denver, our people will know how to organize and communicate at the institutional level to make fast decisions in the best interest of the University and its community. I truly believe that if we can accomplish this, we can handle anything.”

Topics: Emergency preparedness, Safety

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