COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Operations - Coastal Carolina University
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COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Operations

The University’s response phase of the pandemic is ongoing and managed by the CCU COVID-19 emergency operations organization. Utilizing the emergency operations organization and applicable processes creates the infrastructure that allows the University to continue to address the impacts of COVID-19 on campus. The CCU Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is responsible for leading the COVID-19 emergency operations organization, which is comprised of three major functional teams: the COVID-19 Operations Planning Team; the COVID-19 Advisory Group; and the Emergency Management Executive Group.      

The OEM employs a cyclical planning process that provides a mechanism in which the emergency operations organization collaborates to enhance situational awareness, streamline decision-making processes, and provide strategic direction for response operations. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the emergency operations organization has remained flexible in its response by continuously and concurrently assessing operations, implementing new guidance, and planning for future operations. This cyclical approach continues due to the complex COVID-19 pandemic environment that requires continuous assessment and highly responsive mitigation methods. The emergency management director meets with each team on a regular basis to facilitate this ongoing process as described in the operational steps below.

Step 1: Analyze the situation, including future predictions, and assess risk.

The first step includes gathering, documenting, analyzing, and disseminating situation and pandemic-potential information in a manner that facilitates increased situational awareness of the magnitude, complexity, and potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on campus.

The OEM collects campus COVID-19 data and coordinates with select department representatives to document key metrics and produce essential elements of information to support situational awareness. Emergency Management staff also monitors COVID-19 key indicators for increasing trends or spikes to assess the degree of impact on CCU’s infection containment measures. This information is shared with the COVID-19 Operations Planning Team committee chairs to prepare and adjust operations and/or resources.

The COVID-19 Advisory Group monitors COVID-19 disease development, collects COVID-19 campus and regional data, and monitors disease spread on the campus. The data collected provide snapshots of the impact of COVID-19 and is also used to develop a campus risk assessment and progress trends. The group is made up of faculty and staff subject matter experts who meet regularly to discuss global/national trends and disease developments such as variants, assess the COVID-19 risk level of the campus, review and interpret strides made to maintain low levels of cases on campus, and consider potential future impacts.

The data collection, recording, and analyzing of public health information is disseminated to the University community and used internally by the emergency operations organization. The CCU COVID-19 Tableau Dashboard was created by the COVID-19 Advisory Group as a mechanism to share campus-specific COVID-19 information in an effort to provide situational awareness of the overall health of the campus community. The group also develops and submits a biweekly campus risk assessment report to President Benson and the Emergency Management Executive Group. The report provides important information necessary to inform decision-making processes at the executive level.

Step 2: Establish the emergency operations direction and develop response priorities.

The Emergency Management Executive Group is responsible for ensuring the ongoing mission of the University during emergency operations. President Benson leads the group, which is made up of executive-level leaders within the University’s administration who supervise departments within the emergency operations organization. The emergency management director serves as the facilitator for the group and primary liaison between all teams. President Benson and the group review and discuss the COVID-19 campus risk assessment report and other situation updates. This group also reviews and approves operational plans or recommends changes. They provide strategic direction for operational planning and charge teams to develop guidance or explore COVID-19 related issues. The group addresses any executive-level policies relating to COVID-19, including continuity of operations and academic continuity.

Step 3: Develop, execute, and evaluate COVID-19 operational plans

The COVID-19 Operations Planning Team, made up of the 11 functional committees listed below, are represented in regular meetings by committee chairs. The COVID-19 Operations Planning committee chairs lead the development of COVID-19 action plans, which establish strategies and resource requirements to successfully operate on campus within the COVID-19 pandemic environment. This includes infection containment measures such as COVID-19 vaccination and testing, contact tracing, and quarantine and isolation on campus. These action plans continue to be reviewed, refined, and updated on a regular basis to meet the ever-changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee chairs utilize planning assumptions as a tool to develop a scenario/situation overview of the possible future COVID-19 environment to plan and prepare for future operations. It is challenging to create plans for an unknown situation in the future. However, as with every plan that has been developed, they are subject to change based on guidance from the CDC, DHEC, and other authorities. Operational plans are submitted to President Benson and the Emergency Management Executive Group for review and approval. Once approval is received, plans are communicated to the University community and implemented. The plan evaluation and revision cycle will continue until emergency operations are deactivated.

COVID-19 Operations Planning Team Functional Committees:
  • Academics
  • Activities, Events, and Experiences
  • Athletics and Recreation
  • Auxiliary Enterprises
  • Compliance
  • Facilities and Infrastructure
  • Health and Safety
  • Human Resources
  • International Students and Programs
  • Public Education and Communication
  • Testing and Infection Containment