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What is the IMT?
Incident Management Teams (IMT) are specialized teams that oversee disasters and emergencies. Millersville’s Incident Management Team is working on putting effective safety measures into place around campus to aid in the mitigation of COVID-19. Their goal is to make sure they have systems in place to assist faculty, students, and staff with COVID-19.
The team is made up of 12 specialized individuals who oversee different departments. They also recently added two students, one graduate and one undergraduate.
Co-chairman Duane Hagelgans works in the Center of Research and Education and teaches emergency management. Hagelgans works within the faculty side of the team and has been actively involved in emergency management for 30 years. In 2012, he was hired to teach full-time in Millersville’s emergency management program.
Co-chairman Victor DeSantis is the Executive Director for community engagement, government, and economic development. DeSantis has been working at Millersville for 15 years now as an administrator and is helping by bringing an administrative perspective to the team and serving as a conduit of information to the president and cabinet members.
In a recent Zoom interview, Hagelgans and DeSantis discuss their roles on the team and assess how Millersville and other universities have been handling COVID-19 so far. Their goal going forward is to ensure low coronavirus cases on campus.
“Probably our number one goal of our team is to take as much stress off campus as possible so that we can keep the campus open throughout the rest of the semester. Our goal is to work with everybody, our entire community to keep campus open and hopefully come back next semester and do it even better,” says Hagelgans.
When asked what their own assessment has been of Millersville’s handling of COVID-19, DeSantis elaborates on what he thinks has led to the university’s low coronavirus cases.
“In my opinion I think that so far we have done well to make decisions to reduce the risk to our campus. So the early decisions to desensify our campus, the early decisions that we made to move our campus academic courses 80% online, the decisions we made in housing to limit the size of our residential population. So many of the decisions that we made, as early as last June…so many of those decisions were at the time conservative in nature in many respects, but have helped us to minimize the risk to our student body and larger campus community,” says DeSantis.
Janet Kacskos, Director of Communications comments on a call she had with DeSantis and the (EAB) Education Advisory Board. Their “COVID Czar” said that Millersville’s cautiousness to start the Fall 2020 semester is what has led to the university’s overall low numbers.
“Our students when situations arise- suspected cases, known cases, have done the right thing right away. They’ve contacted health services, they’ve gone into quarantine when necessary. When your students are doing the right thing and our faculty and staff…they’re looking at it as the serious event that it is so when something arises they’re following the proper protocols,” says Hagelgans.
DeSantis sheds light on how Millserville has been learning from other universities’ failures, such as North Carolina University who had a significant COVID-19 outbreak within the first two weeks of opening its campus.
He describes the key aspect of Millersville’s ability to move forward is due to the emergency management professionals on the IMT that are consistently working on new protocols and processes to keep everyone safe. “I think we’re practicing good continuous process improvement as we move along, because we are in uncharted territory, no one’s dealt with a virus of this nature,” says DeSantis.
Everyday the team holds an hour long morning briefing to discuss new ways they can implement safety measures on campus and avoid a potential outbreak. “In any emergency or any disaster it’s not the first decision you make, it’s all those adjustments you’re making. So we’re looking at other universities and we’re learning from other universities. We did have a great advantage that we didn’t bring everybody back. Those schools are certainly dealing with some issues, but at the same point I think making adjustments is the key to any disaster… it’s not the decisions you make it’s how you evaluate them,” says Hagelgans.
Livesafe was chosen as the primary health safety app for everyone to use before arriving on campus, since many students and faculty conveniently already had it on their mobile devices. Since the health questionnaire trusts students to answer honestly regarding whether they have any COVID-19 symptoms or have come in contact with anyone who has tested positive, Hagelgans comments on what if students lie to get the green check mark?
“My thing is if I don’t care about me, what about everybody else? What about my mother or what about somebody’s grandmother or what about somebody’s family member that does have health related issues where COVID is going to be much more serious for them than maybe it is for me or maybe it is for you. We need to look at the whole community versus looking inwardly,” says Hagelgans.
The IMT would like to see students, faculty, and staff using Livesafe everyday, educating themselves on the facts of the coronavirus, and taking the virus as seriously as possible to protect themselves and their surrounding community.
“We’re all in this together and if we’re not all in this together, then we’re going to fail together,” says Hagelgans.
The IMT has recently set up a COVID-19 dashboard to track the number of coronaviruses cases of both students and faculty and whether the cases occurred on or off campus. As of 10/1/2020 there are 17 active cases. Currently only three students who live on campus have had the virus, while 13 students residing off campus have also tested positive.
Likewise, there are quick links provided with the Dashboard to direct students to the CDC website and help students in need with any additional expenses caused by or related to the coronavirus. These links include the Cares Relief Fund and the EPPIIC Student Compassion Fund.
In Dr. Wubah’s recent update, he announced that Millersville has recently purchased seven temperature scan kiosks which will be placed in several academic buildings across campus as an added safety precaution.
The IMT has also put together a series of three flowcharts for students to reference in order to follow proper protocols and report cases. These flowcharts can be found under the COVID updates page of Millersville’s website.