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Carol Cwiak and Daniel Klenow, Published September 20 2009

It’s more than 400 weather radios

Richard Scharf’s recent letter to the editor questioned the fiscal propriety of spending $412,000 on 400 weather radios at North Dakota State University. Scharf’s comments arose out of an Associated Press article that discussed the $412,352 grant from the U.S. Department of Education and the weather radio purchase.

While the article clearly stated the actual cost of the radios as $30 each, it did not detail other grant activities. Given the fact that there may be others like Scharf who may incorrectly conclude that the entire grant was spent on radios, we deem it important to offer additional information on this grant and its value to the university and community.

The 18-month grant received by NDSU’s Emergency Management Program from the Department of Education funded the Ready Campus Initiative proposal. This initiative seeks to complete comprehensive all-hazard planning efforts for all of the NDSU campuses and research centers and to share the information, templates and other products it develops during the process with other colleges and universities in North Dakota and the region.

NDSU was one of 26 higher education institutions in the nation to receive a grant award this year and is believed to be the only one using a model that partners with an academic program in emergency management to deliver the operational manpower required to accomplish the necessary planning.

While NDSU’s Emergency Management Program is a national leader academically, it has a strong reputation for its hands-on contributions locally, nationally and internationally. This grant allows the Emergency Management Program to focus a higher level of attention to the university’s planning efforts by allowing the additional funding necessary.

Many higher education institutions have dedicated emergency management planners on their campuses; NDSU and other North Dakota colleges and universities do not yet have such planners. It is hoped that the work completed on this grant will evidence to the Legislature the value of integrating an emergency management position into campus operations.

The weather radio purchase was a part of this grant’s original proposal and was based on sound research that evidences the value of weather radios as a warning tool that saves lives. The weather radio expenditure accounted for about 3 percent of the grant funds. The remaining funds are mainly being spent to fund a project director and four highly capable emergency management graduate students. This team has already begun the planning work necessary to make NDSU a safer place for students, staff and faculty.

NDSU is a major piece of Fargo’s economic stability. The entire community has a stake in the fiscal well-being of the university. This grant is focused on planning that not only ensures that planning is in place to address emergency incidents, but also to address the potential of operational interruptions. Continuity of operations planning is critical to maintaining operations in the face of an emergency or disaster. Many planning challenges face institutions of higher education. Some of these challenges develop internally while others are related to larger events that affect the community. NDSU’s Emergency Management Program is committed to the safety, security and well-being of NDSU’s students, staff, faculty, research interests and facilities.

We are well aware that comprehensive all-hazard planning is the most effective mechanism by which we can do this. The weather radios are a small part of that protection but certainly not the entirety of it.

Cwiak, JD, and Klenow, Ph.D., are with the NDSU Emergency Planning Program

and are principal investigators on the grant.