January 17, 2022

Get to Know Director of Emergency Management Bill Curtis

Director of Emergency Management Bill Curtis joined the Lewis & Clark community in September 2021. Get to know Bill Curtis in the following Q&A. 

Director of Emergency Management Bill Curtis Director of Emergency Management Bill CurtisDirector of Emergency Management Bill Curtis joined the Lewis & Clark community in September 2021. Previously at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Curtis comes to L&C with more than 14 years of experience in emergency operations.

“The hire of a dedicated emergency manager was a high priority for the campus,” Vice President for Student Life Robin Holmes-Sullivan said. “One only has to reflect on the multitude of emergencies we endured as a campus over the last year and a half to confirm this need. I am confident that with his guidance, we will be very prepared to respond to the challenges and emergencies that are sure to come in the future. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Bill if you have ideas on how to help the campus prepare or have questions.”

Get to know Bill Curtis in the following Q&A:

What drew you to this position at Lewis & Clark and how do you like living in Portland?

I have lived in Wisconsin my whole life, so I was looking for a change in both my professional and personal life. Having visited the Pacific Northwest a few times for work and vacation, I found the area truly beautiful and a place I could see myself living.

On my visits to Lewis & Clark during the interview process, I was able to see myself working here because of the great interview process and the warm welcome I received. This made the decision to move to Portland that much easier.

What constitutes a campus emergency?

Defining what constitutes a campus emergency is fairly nuanced. There are many elements that need to be considered, such as the location of the campus, size of student body, time of year, and activities and programming taking place. A power outage during the summer impacts the campus differently than a power outage during an academic semester.

Here at Lewis & Clark, a campus emergency could be any unexpected event that negatively impacts the campus’ ability to provide academic offerings, ensure student safety, be a good employer, or fulfill contractual obligations. Using this definition, here are a few events that could constitute an emergency:

  • Ice storm that limits safely drive to campus.
  • An internet outage to the campus.
  • A wildfire that threatens any of the campus buildings.
  • Poor air quality beyond the allowed limits established by state government.
  • Active threats, such as active shooters, violent actors, or any time a person or persons commit violent acts to the campus community.
  • Earthquakes that impact campus buildings or other infrastructure.

What’s ahead this academic year for campus emergency planning?

I am focusing on creating the foundation of a comprehensive emergency management program. This means working with campus leaders on drafting basic emergency plans, creating preparedness materials, developing partnerships with other colleges, and facilitating emergency drills and exercises.

During the spring semester, campus leadership will work through a tabletop exercise regarding summer threats, such as wildfires and unhealthy air. We will also be participating in an exercise hosted by the Department of Homeland Security and the State of Oregon in June 2022. This exercise will explore how the Pacific Northwest could respond to a Cascadia earthquake. Both exercises are great opportunities to test our capabilities and develop strong relationships with community partners and government agencies.

How do you communicate emergency information with the campus community?

Communication is step one of good emergency management. Campus community members have the right to know about emergencies and how to stay safe. All students, faculty, and staff are strongly encouraged to keep their emergency contact information up to date. This will ensure that you receive LC Alerts (text messages and emails) and other emergency notifications.

Here is how you can update your emergency contact information: https://www.lclark.edu/offices/facilities/emergency/RAVEalerts/

Beyond emergency notifications, communication must also happen before a disaster or emergency impacts the campus. I am working on developing an emergency management website that will include information on preparedness for emergencies and steps you can take to stay safe.

What can offices, departments and/or workspaces do to prepare for any emergencies?

One of the goals for 2022 is to help departments create business continuity plans. These plans are designed to identify essential services (such as payroll, IT services, laboratory operations, and food services) and make sure they continue during an emergency. Departments are encouraged to contact me about creating a business continuity plan for their department.

Departments are also encouraged to hold discussions with their teams about emergencies, such as a round table discussion. I’m happy to help facilitate these team conversations. It’s a great way of thinking about how teams can get prepared in a non-threatening way.

Finally, all community members are strongly encouraged to learn about disasters that could impact their family, create disaster kits for at home, and learn how to respond to emergencies at work. I encourage everyone to check out two great websites on getting prepared at home and at work: https://www.multco.us/em and https://www.ready.gov/.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’m truly excited to have the opportunity to work at Lewis & Clark. This is a world-class college with amazing students, faculty, and staff. I’m honored to be part of this wonderful community and to help make sure we are all prepared for the next emergency or disaster. Please do not hesitate to reach out me if you have any questions or ideas. I’m here to help Lewis & Clark continue to excel in our mission of seeking knowledge for its own sake and to prepare our students for civic leadership.