Gavilan College’s Emergency Operations Center builds plans to return to campusby Jan Janes on Oct 12, 2020
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Santa Clara County Health Department Shelter in Place order, Gavilan College initiated an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in early March to deal with the crisis. Beginning March 17, all instruction shifted to online delivery. Most staff, faculty and students no longer were allowed on campus.
Gavilan College Emergency Operations Center (EOC) responds to COVID-19
EOC’s are formed to deal with emergencies - real life crises, outside normal, everyday situations. They could be triggered by earthquakes, wildfires encroaching on the hillsides, or the threat of an active shooter. Individuals in key positions often have emergency or disaster management training for acute situations.
Early on administrators acknowledged that the threat of COVID-19, without a near term end in sight, would require a different approach than a natural disaster.
“When COVID-19 and shelter in place happened, it impacted our entire system,” said Ron Hannon, Dean of Kinesiology & Athletics. “No one knows when it’s ending, and we need to keep all the stakeholders safe and healthy through this process.”
Structure of EOC offers key, collaborative components
Dr. Kathleen Rose, Superintendent/President of Gavilan College, initiated the EOC, and the Board of Trustees formally enacted it. The college has the burden of covering all costs associated after the Shelter in Place (SIP) order was issued by the Santa Clara County Health Department.
Formation of the EOC creates the timeclock at the start of the crisis, and the district becomes eligible for Federal and State funding for potential reimbursement of costs.
Hannon oversees the operations of the EOC. Michael J. Renzi, Vice President of Administrative Services, serves as Incident Commander, and is in touch with Gavilan administrators and other emergency officials outside the college.
Four teams have different, collaborative responsibilities:
- The Logistics Team reviews plans, identifies loopholes, areas of challenge, and develops how the plan will be implemented.
- Operations coordinates the roll out of the plan, fits the moving pieces together and manages the people implementing the plan.
- The Finance Team identifies and manages the expenses associated with dealing with the crisis.
- The Reporting Team is responsible for documenting everything.
The EOC met at 3:00 p.m. daily, seven days a week, for almost three months after the SIP order.
“We strategized how it would impact our college,” said Hannon. “And we stayed focused on developing a plan that allowed us to be safe.”
Members were engaging from a remote locations, the situation was frequently changing, and Gilroy, in Southern Santa Clara County, was experiencing a surge in positive cases.
“We must have developed two dozen plans, the best plans, with all the time, energy, effort,” he said, “And some new change would occur, making it obsolete.”
EOC is managed by college administrators. It is staffed by a wide range of employees who bring skill sets and knowledge the EOC needs to respond, as a campus, to the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals who might have worked in supporting roles are now taking leadership roles within the EOC.
“We are getting to see people’s leadership skills stretched, in this situation,” said Hannon, “Growing more leadership roles, and developing our own personnel.”
As parts of the plan were approved and fewer changes were enacted by the County and State, the EOC shifted to weekday only meetings, then twice weekly. Currently EOC meets for an hour on Thursdays.
Protocols for deep cleaning were early actions taken by the college
At the beginning of the pandemic, there were a lot of unknowns and speculation. But there was a clear specification to clean and disinfect.
“Our facilities staff received special training in hazardous materials clean up,” said Hannon. Facilities Director Jeff Gopp and his crew cleaned the main campus and the Hollister, Morgan Hill and Coyote Valley satellite campuses using special cleaning agents and tools, wearing protective gear to keep them safe.
Safety remains paramount
As Gavilan College moves through the Fall 2020 semester, safety protocols have been developed. Student services and most instruction are online. Buildings have very limited access, and only a few programs have in-person labs on campus. Face-to-face classes are required to adhere to social distancing measures, and everyone on campus must wear a face mask. Classrooms with students attending regularly have access to adjacent restrooms with soap and water available, along with hand sanitizer at each entrance. High traffic areas, breakrooms and bathrooms have a daily schedule for facilities staff to clean and disinfect.
Access to the campus is by appointment only at the South Gate, and security staff has a daily list of people approved to come to campus.
The EOC is working within the guidelines of CDC, California Department of Health and Community College Chancellor’s Office to in order to resume in-person operations.