Student-Led Evacuation Drill Using the Incident Command System - April 28, 2010

Alright.  This is very, very cool and I couldn't help but pass it along...

On April 28, 2010, around 300 Denver-area students at the Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning will conduct a Student-Led Evacuation Drill Using the Incident Command System with the assistance of a graduate intern, Camilla Yamada, from the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado.

Schools do evacuation drills all the time... why is this one any different?  What makes this project so innovative is that, under Ms. Yamada's counsel, the evaucation drill will be led by students who will be organized using the national Incident Command System (ICS).   By implementing an ICS framework, the students will be using the exact same set-up that many first response agencies and emergency managers use today to real-world ongoing incidents/events at the local, state and federal level.  The ICS system is the 'action' part of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) National Incident Management System (NIMS).  Essentially, it provides a framework for any organization (or organizations) to come together around an event or incident using a common set of management practices and procedures to streamline information flow to decision-makers.  Whether it is a local structure fire, a professional association conference or a student-led evacuation, the ICS system can help an organization or group of individuals use a common language, establish a familiar, consistent and flexible structure and immediately create information pathways to ensure that everything -- from planning to safety to leadership decisions to information collection and dissemination -- can be efficiently accomplished.

Apart from being the first student-led evacuation using the ICS methodology that we are aware of, what is most striking about this exercise is that these students are taking book knowledge and making it tangible.  By demonstrating individual responsibility and initiative to actively understand how to organize and conduct an event as complex as an evacuation, they are assuming ownership and responsibility for enhancing their own safety.  We have seen it time and time again, in recent world-wide earthquakes, in school tragedies, in tornadoes and other emergencies, the chances of surviving and recovering from a disaster or emergency are often the steps that individuals or groups have taken to prepare and organize in advance.  Whether it be understanding and practicing evacuation routes in a school or business or by creating a family communications plan and keeping a stocked emergency kit at home.... just in case.  The first aid you may get during a large-scale disaster will likely come from your neighbors, family members, friends and colleagues.  Programs like these and others are the key to ensuring we are prepared at the ground-level for threats we face.  For more on citizen preparedness in Colorado, be sure to check out READYColorado.   

If you are involved in emergency preparedness and/or response, expecially in Colorado, you are probably already aware of the Natural Hazards Center at CU and if not, you need to be.  The Hazards Center is actively engaged in cutting-edge disaster preparedness, response and recovery projects and, in particular, in seeking innovative ways to share information including through social media tools and training. You can learn more about the Center's work at  You can also follow them online at