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UTPA Department of Environmental Health and Safety awarded $50,000 grant
By Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Representative
381-2741
Posted: 10/21/2008
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The University of Texas-Pan American has received a $50,000 grant from The University of Texas System under its 2009 Risk Management Resource Allocation Program for use in emergency-related programs. UTPA competed against 14 UT System institutions for part of the $250,000 in funding available and was one of four schools awarded.

The grant proposal, which was submitted by Dr. Richard Costello, UTPA director of Environmental Health and Safety, in conjunction with the UTPA Physical Plant, required information on what the institution would do to support the development, implementation and/or enhancement of a fully integrated, all-hazards emergency plan with an emphasis on mitigating employee and occupational health risks in and during an emergency.

According to Costello, UTPA’s grant funds will go toward purchasing a portable backup 70 KW emergency generator, several portable HVAC coolers, a weather station, and a camera specially designed to snake through the storm water drains to evaluate which ones may have obstructions.

Costello said UTPA has a comprehensive emergency response plan incorporating the four phases of emergency response – mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery – to address the potential for a natural disaster such as a hurricane. The plan was tested by Hurricane Emily in 2005 and more recently in August 2008 when Hurricane Dolly, a category II hurricane swept across campus.

“Though the emergency response plan was effective in minimizing the losses to the campus, a post hurricane evaluation of Dolly by the crisis management team identified some specific improvements to the plan that will help the campus be better prepared for a future event of this nature. In particular, these funds will help in the mitigation of accumulations of water that can be partially attributed to storm drains on campus that have either collapsed or are plugged with debris,” he said.

Additionally, to improve emergency preparedness, some of the grant funds will allow the purchase of flip charts, similar to ones used at The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Health Science Center that will be placed by emergency phones on campus and provide valuable emergency response information, not only in a hurricane but other emergencies such as a hazardous material spill or an active shooter on campus. The purchase of portable coolers and generators will assist in the recovery stage, Costello said, by providing electricity and local cooling in areas used by personnel conducting emergency response and/or normal business.

Phillip B. Dendy, CRM, director of Office Risk Management for The UT System, congratulated UTPA on their award.

“The relatively minimal losses incurred by UTPA during Hurricane Dolly were in large part due to the effective implementation of emergency plans the institution has for disasters of this nature and this grant will only serve to enhance and support this effort,” Dendy said.

For more information, contact Costello at 956/381-3690 or e-mail costellor@utpa.edu.