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University hires first emergency manager

Published: Thursday, March 8, 2012

Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 10:03

Stephen Murphy

Kevin Zansler/Photo Managing Editor

Stephen Murphy, pictured March 7, was recently hired as Loyola’s new emergency manager. Murphy started at the end of February.

Loyola has taken steps to become more equipped for emergencies by hiring an emergency manager. Stephen Murphy was hired in January and began the position on Feb. 27.

The emergency manager position was created in part as a response to previous threats at other universities like Virginia Tech.

The emergency manager position includes duties such as educating the Loyola community on possible emergency scenarios from hurricanes to pandemics, planning for all possible threats to the university and serving as a liaison to other organizations, such as the New Orleans Police Department and Fire Department, according to Ric Bell, director of Risk Management.

"Collaboration and coordination cannot be over emphasized," Murphy said. "It is important to work with the likes of Tulane, other New Orleans universities and the city of New Orleans because putting information together that has been successful in that past and using the best existing practices can bring success to Loyola."

"Pulling bits and pieces together to utilize best practices will continue to be a piece of our playbook," said Murphy in an email.

Murphy said he was hired in January, but had to transition from his previous job at the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and wait until recently to begin.

Murphy has experience working with incidents such as the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the 2009 pandemic influenza, post-Katrina rebuilding and the Mississippi River water level rising last year. Murphy also has experience with crowd management at large public events and other heightened-security occasions.

A crucial part of a productive plan is focusing and awareness on one course of action—one message. Mixed messages or conflicting courses of action can be detrimental, Murphy said.

Bell believes that one of the most important aspects of the risk management position is preparedness.

"Preparedness is key," Bell said. "Making people ready for things that can happen is essential, so they can respond."

Communication is an essential tool for preparation, and risk management's job is to provide awareness and to make the message available, Murphy said.

"If we want to maintain an open university, which I believe is important, then we must be working together to keep a safe environment," said University President the Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J.

Murphy said he also believes in an open university and said it needs to be preserved since Loyola is a place of learning. The openness should only be sacrificed for the sake of security on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Wildes said that the emergency manager position is designated for emergencies that may not happen. "Hopefully, this will be a safety net we never need," he said.

Lucy Dieckhaus can be reached at ljdieckh@loyno.edu 

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