GRCCs Risk Team Adapts

July 5, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — From spilled chemicals to bomb threats, the Grand Rapids Community College Risk Management Team plans for the many potential hazards on campus.

Jim Peterson, chairman of the team and executive director of financial services, said the team brings together members of the staff, administration, faculty and even a student to recognize and review the risks at the college.

“It provides a forum for all the expertise,” he said.

Business and Financial Services Executive Vice President Bob Partridge is a member of the team, which is sponsored by the department. Partridge said it is important to have people with different experiences on the team.

“We try to get a broad spectrum of employees,” he said.

The purpose of the team, according to the 2004-05 charter, is “to provide communication, policy development, training and recommendations for budget allocations related to risk management issues on the campus of Grand RapidsCommunity College.” The issues include compliances with Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, employee health and safety, student and visitor safety and asset protection.

There also are various subcommittees that deal with the specific issues of industrial hazards, emergency preparedness, blood-borne pathogens, material safety data sheets-right to know, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliance.

“The risk management team responds and sets up the program’s procedures to make sure they’re in compliance,” Partridge said.

The 23 members of the team come from departments that have a higher capacity for risk, such as the science department, as well as the police chief, facility director and others who would have the most interaction and experience with hazardous and emergency situations.

“We’re trying to plan for all and various emergencies that could exist,” Partridge said.

Partridge said the risk management team has focused more on bomb threats and other catastrophic emergency events since Sept. 11, 2001, as have many community colleges across the country.

“We’ve been working hard on that the last couple of years,” he said.

When an emergency occurs, there are procedures to ensure that everyone is informed and updated with the situation.

“We have a step-by-step response to incidents on campus,” he said.

The risk management team meets once a month during the regular school year, with meetings in the summer as needed.

Partridge said some of the most important issues the team has had to deal with have been bomb threats, weather situations and the potential loss of personal information.

Partridge said the potential loss of personally indemnifying information is one of the greatest risks with the growing reliance on technology. GRCC experienced a problem when a laptop was stolen in the fall.

“We weren’t sure what information was on the laptop that was stolen,” he said.

Because of that incident, enhancements have been made in securing data on the communication systems and requiring user agreements.

They also are concerned with identity theft and have worked to come into compliance with credit card security standards for students who pay their bills online.

“That whole issue, we’re really conscious about,” Partridge said.

Being aware of and dealing with risks at the community college is an ongoing process, which Partridge said is always changing.

“Our technology changes have really been pretty amazing,” he said.

Now instead of looking up a handbook or waiting for an answer, he said they can find information on OSHA standards and other issues on Web sites.

“We have more Web site access these days than we’ve ever had,” Partridge said.

As the risks change, Partridge said, the team adapts and evolves.

“We have moved a long way but we still have a long ways to go.”           

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